09/06/2004, 00.00
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Guarded optimism about the resumption of negotiations

Statements by Mg Pietro Sambi, Apostolic delegate to Jerusalem, and Oded Ben Hur, Israel's Ambassador to the Holy See.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Negotiations between Israel and the Holy See restart today September 6 after Israel called them off a year ago. Vatican and Israeli delegations are scheduled to meet for four days, September 9 included. This comes after the short meeting on July 5 during which the resumption of talks was set for today, Monday.

The Vatican side remains very guarded in its optimism. The Nuncio and Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem, Mgr Pietro Sambi will not release any statement ahead of the negotiations. Contacted by AsiaNews, he said: "Concerning the resumption of negotiations I shall wait after they are over before making any comment about their results."

Israel's Ambassador to the Holy See, Oded Ben Hur, instead released the following statement to AsiaNews: "We are happy for the resumption [of negotiations]. On the Israeli side, we are well prepared and wish to go forward towards their conclusion, which I hope will occur before the end of this year or at the beginning of the next. To date, we must solve certain "conceptual "difficulties" in interpreting Israeli legislative principles under which the accord falls. None the less, I have just come from Israel and it is my impression that progress has been made. I hope that it will become evident in the upcoming meeting. It would be a pity if the negotiations should drag on for too long it. But we should not never the less raise our hopes to high and think that results will necessarily come from this meeting."

The new round of meetings involves the most difficult issues, namely Church properties and tax exemption status for Church bodies. They were covered by the fundamental agreement between the Holy See and Israel on December 30, 1993 which preceded the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the See of St. Peter and the Jewish state in June 1994. By signing the fundamental agreement the Vatican accepted Israel's demand to establish diplomatic relations. In turn, the two sides were expected to sign a series of concordats that would guarantee the rights and freedom of the Church in Israel. Israel however never modified its legislation in conformity with the agreement. And on August 28, 2003, it withdrew its delegation from the negotiating table without any explanation.

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