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Vatican delegation astonished by cancellation of meeting with Israel

Vatican delegation members were astonished on Wednesday when a meeting with the Israeli Foreign Ministry aimed at finalising taxation issues was cancelled hours before the meeting was to take place.

"The reaction in the church to the last-minute cancellation is astonishment at what appears to be a pattern of last-minute, unilateral cancellations by Israel of crucially important meetings," a source close to the Vatican delegation told Catholic News Service.

No reason was given for the cancellation, he said.

"This was a meeting for which (the Israelis) were preparing for 12 years," he said. "Every time we are getting close to an issue they withdraw. It is very perplexing. How can the issue be resolved if they won't even talk about it?"

The source said there were to be two meetings, one to finalize the taxation question and a follow-up the next day to discuss the implementation process of the hoped-for agreement.

The two delegations met yesterday to discuss technical issues left over from other meetings. Two major issues still needed to be negotiated: the local property tax issue and the issue of right of due process over church property disputes, the source said.

The Vatican delegation has begun to feel the need for a change in the level of Israeli representation at the meetings because the people who have been attending the meetings are "low-level functionaries with no authority to negotiate," said the church source.

The tax issues are important for the church but trivial for Israel, he said.

The source said that regarding taxes the church was seeking to "confirm an exemption which was in place when Israel became a state and which was in place until two years ago."

The church also is asking that property disputes be "decided in court and not by politicians," the source said.

Another meeting is scheduled for 13 January.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.

Vatican delegation astonished by cancellation of meeting with Israel (Catholic News Service 16/12/04)

Vatican Secretariat of State
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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17 Dec 2004