04/23/2009, 00.00
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“Meaningful progress” in bilateral talks between the Holy See and Israel

by Arieh Cohen
After meeting today, the bilateral commission issued an upbeat press release. Talks between the two sides have been ongoing since 1999. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 30 April in Israel, just before the Pope’s visit. Mgr Pietro Parolin and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will be present.
Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – A meeting took place today in Israel of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel, which is currently negotiating (since 11 March 1999) a bilateral treaty on fiscal and property questions.

At the end of the meeting, which was held at an undisclosed location, the delegations published a joint communiqué, which spoke of "meaningful progress" having been achieved "by receiving a Report from a Working Group". For the rest, the communiqué reiterated the assurances that the talks were held in a climate of "great cordiality" and that both parties are committed to the goal concluding the comprehensive agreement "as soon as possible".

The communiqué also announces a plenary meeting, at Israel's Foreign Ministry, for 30 April. Under the commission's rules, the plenary is co-chaired by the respective  "deputy foreign ministers", at present, for the Holy See, the  Under-Secretary for Relations with States, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, and for the State of Israel, the Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon (a former Ambassador to the US). Apparently this is the plenary that a December 2008 communiqué had scheduled for the 23rd.  This is only one of several changes to the calendar announced last December, which foresaw too meetings in March, on the 5th and on the 26th, neither of which appears to have taken place. That, combined with the rumours (never confirmed) of a meeting  supposed to have taken place during Holy Week, perhaps 7 April, (though without previous announcement or concluding communiqué), caused some speculation among observers  speculation about the direction of the negotiations.

However, today's upbeat, hopeful communiqué has laid to rest those worries, at least for the moment. It is widely known, of course, that these are, by their very nature, very tough, very complex negotiations, and that it must take some more time before they can conclude with the desired agreement.

Is the Agreement possible? To this question everyone today appears to be responding affirmatively, and the new joint communiqué appears to nod its assent.

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