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Pope agrees on 'urgent need' for Palestinian state

Vatican statement shows support for Palestinian statehood following Abbas' meeting with Pope Benedict XVI

AFP , Friday 3 Jun 2011
Palestine
Pope Benedict XVI greets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen as he arrives for a private audience at the Vatican, Friday, (AP).
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Pope Benedict XVI and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas met in the Vatican on Friday and said there was an "urgent need" for a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Particular stress was laid on the urgent need to find a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the Vatican said in a statement after the talks -- the fourth time Benedict has met Abbas since becoming pope.

Any resolution to the conflict will have to respect the rights of all parties including through "the attainment of the Palestinian people's legitimate aspirations for an independent state," the statement added.

"It was thus reiterated that soon the State of Israel and the Palestinian State must live in security, at peace with their neighbours and within internationally recognised borders," it continued.

The Vatican said the two had also discussed the "irreplaceable contribution" provided by Christian minorities living in the Palestinian Territories and the Middle East -- a cherished issue for the current pope.

The Middle East peace process has been a constant concern for the pope, who called for the creation of two states during a visit to the Holy Land in 2009.

Revolutions across the Arab world have raised tensions in the region.

Israeli police and army are on alert as Palestinians gear up to mark 44 years since Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Six Day War.

The anniversary will be marked on Sunday when Palestinians in neighbouring Arab states say they are planning to march on Israel's borders.

Thousands of protesters in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza last month tried to force their way across the borders in a mass show of mourning over the 1948 creation of the Jewish state.

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