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Middle East peace talks progress

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and expressed hope that new diplomatic moves can bring peace in the Middle East.

After 60 years of suffering endured by the peoples of the region, it is imperative to make “every effort” to find a just settlement, the Vatican said after the September 6 meeting.

Following his 35-minute private audience with the Pope, Mr Peres held separate talks with Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the Vatican’s top foreign affairs official Archbishop Dominique Mamberti to discuss the Middle East and Church-state relations in Israel.

The Vatican statement said the prospect of an international conference raised new hopes and created a “particularly favorable context” for progress.

Any eventual Israeli-Palestinian agreement should respect United Nations resolutions and previously concluded agreements, the Vatican said.

Mr Peres renewed Israel’s invitation to Pope Benedict to visit Israel and the Holy Land.

Later on the day the Pope met Mr Peres, he met with the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, Prince Saud Al Faisal, in talks that focused in part on conflict in the Middle East.

The Vatican said the 20-minute meeting also touched on moral and religious values, the political and religious situation in Saudi Arabia, and the importance of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.

A day earlier, the Pope held talks with Syrian Vice-president Farouk al-Sharaa.

Catholic Church Insurance

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