WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY
August 16-17, 2000
volume 11, no. 142


NEWS for Wednesday-Thursday, August 16-17, 2000
ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES PEACE PROCESS AT VATICAN
Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran Explains Vatican Position

VATICAN CITY, August 14 (ZENIT.org)

    Monday morning Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, met Shlomo Ben Ami, "ad interim" Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel, who visited the Vatican to exchange ideas on the Middle East peace process, especially the situation that has emerged following the recent failure of the Camp David negotiations.

Date with Peace

    According to a statement published by Fr. Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican Press Office, during his meeting with Archbishop Tauran, Ben Ami "expressed the Israeli government's will to continue the negotiations, despite the difficulties, and to foster dialogue with the Palestinian Authority, while counting on the assistance of the international community."

Vatican Position

    The Vatican statement discloses that "Archbishop Tauran was able to illustrate the Holy See's well-known position on the peace process: respect on the part of all for international law, especially for United Nations resolutions; equal rights and duties for all the peoples of the region." These are two "indispensable" conditions "to put an end to the unjust and insecure situation," the Vatican stated.

Jerusalem's Universal Value

    The Vatican spokesman also disclosed that "part of the discussion was about safeguarding the holy places of the three great religions in the Holy Land, especially those of the city of Jerusalem, which is considered by the Vatican the sacred patrimony of all believers and of universal value."

Case of Nazareth Mosque

    Finally, Archbishop Tauran referred once again to Christians' concern "over the lamentable situation that exists in Nazareth, because of the plan to construct a mosque in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation." Muslim groups occupied the area by force and, on various occasions, caused threats to the physical safety of pilgrims (Cf. ZENIT. ZE99041106). The Israeli government has granted Muslims permission to build the mosque, but it would seem that this construction is not motivated by need to extend Muslim places of worship, but by Islamic fundamentalists' need to provoke.

    The government and Muslim fundamentalists agreed to begin construction of the mosque after the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. However, the fundamentalists seem disposed to break the agreement. They have already attempted to unload construction material on the site (Cf. ZENIT, ZE00081002).

New Ascendancy

    This is the third high-level visit received by Archbishop Tauran in August in connection with peace in the Middle East, after the failure of the negotiations at Camp David brought to the fore the objectivity of the Vatican proposal to resolve the question of Jerusalem. In the midst of the Camp David negotiations, it became obvious to the parties involved that the question of the Holy City could not be resolved without hearing the Christian position, which up until then had been dismissed.

    On August 1, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright informed the Vatican on the general state of the Middle East peace process after Camp David, wishing to hear first hand the Vatican's real position on the matter, which at times has been manipulated by the media (Cf. ZENIT, ZE00080901).

    Nine days later, Nabil Shaath, Minister of International Co-operation of the National Palestinian Authority, arrived at the Vatican to discuss "the positive aspects of the dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis, as well as the obstacles that did not allow for a happy ending to the meeting," the Vatican Press Office stated.

    On August 9, a Vatican spokesman said: "For his part, Archbishop Tauran confirmed the Vatican's support of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people" (Cf. ZENIT, ZE00080903). ZE00081406

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