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Pope meets Israeli foreign minister

Pope John Paul II called for "concrete acts" from Israel and the Palestinians to break the current impasse in the peace process, during a meeting yesterday with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

The pope "insisted on the necessity to emerge from the current situation, as well as on the need for concrete acts for reconciliation by all," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said.

Shalom also met Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and the Vatican's new foreign minister Giovanni Lajolo.

The meeting followed months of tense exchanges over Israel's construction of a security barrier in the West Bank.

"Both parties expressed their points of view on the road to follow to obtain peace in the Holy Land," during Thursday's talks, Navarro Valls said.

Israel reacted angrily last month when the pope called the barrier "a new obstacle to peace" and declared that the Middle East "does not need walls but bridges".

In Thursday's talks with Shalom, Vatican officials also discussed bilateral relations with the Jewish State, which began when the Holy See recognized Israel in 1993 and opened diplomatic ties the year after.

Pope calls for "concrete acts" from Israel, Palestinians (AFP/Channel Asia 11/12/03)

Israeli foreign minister meets Pontiff (Catholic World News 11/12/03)
Holy Land: current situtation must be resolved (Vatican Information Service/EWTN 11/12/03)
Shalom meets Pope (Jerusalem Post 11/12/03)
Israeli foreign minister meets with pope, assures pilgrims will have access to holy sites (Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle 11/12/03)

12 Dec 2003