12/03/2004, 00.00
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Israeli Ambassador cautiously optimistic about negotiations with Vatican

It was our fault if Israel-Vatican talks were stalled, says Ambassador Ben Hur. Fr David Jaeger, of the Custody of the Holy Land, is grateful for Mr Ben Hur's 'tireless work'.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Negotiations between Israel and the Vatican are at a 'crucial point' beyond which a new phase in the relations between the two parties will begin, this according to Israel's Ambassador to the Holy See Oded Ben Hur who was speaking about the talks concerning the fundamental accord between Israel and the Vatican.

According to the Ambassador, negotiations "have limped along for over ten years till they came to a virtual standstill because of our own foot dragging", but now there are reasons for being "cautiously optimistic". Mr Ben Hur insists on the latter.

Since negotiations were restarted in July, the two delegations have met seven times, this compared to the one annual meeting held since 1994.

This, according to Ambassador Ben Hur, is a positive sign which shows "how serious our intentions are, something which perhaps was missing before for various reasons, some practical".

"Forward steps have been made on tax and legal issues and solutions have been found for almost everyone. The few unresolved issues will be tackled at the next round of negotiations in mid-December."

Ambassador Ben Hur also spoke about the deal between the Israeli and Palestinian tourism ministers to make it easier for Christian pilgrims to return to the Holy Land, something 'historic' in his opinion.

The Ambassador said that the "Catholic Church can turn the Middle East crisis around". Returning Christian pilgrims—"soldiers of peace" in his words—can offer "an unbelievable boost to the Palestinian economy" and help the Palestinian population as well as "contribute to the economy of Israel".

Speaking to AsiaNews about the talks between the Vatican and Israel, Fr David-Maria Jaeger, a Franciscan canon lawyer, who is close to the negotiations, said that "Ambassador Ben Hur's tireless work towards the success of the negotiations is very much appreciated. Let us hope everything is worked out very soon".

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