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No change in Vatican stand on East Jerusalem, official assures

Catholic World News - June 12, 2012

The Vatican has denied reports that the Holy See is prepared to recognize Israeli control over East Jerusalem as part of a bilateral accord recognizing the economic and juridical rights of the Church in the Holy Land.

Palestinian news outlets had reported that a draft version of the proposed accord would acknowledge Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem. But Msgr. Ettore Balestero, the undersecretary for Relations with States, flatly denied the reports. “There will be no mention of East Jerusalem or anywhere in the West Bank” in the final draft, he said.

Msgr. Ballestero explained that earlier drafts of the proposed agreement had mentioned a number of specific locations, including some in East Jerusalem, in an attempt to be extremely specific about the custody of religious shrines. But that approach had been abandoned, he said. The Vatican official said that the Palestinian news reports were apparently based on a draft that was now badly out of date.

“The Holy See’s position has not changed” on the status of East Jerusalem, Msgr. Ballestero said. He added that a separate accord with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, currently being finalized, will confirm that position.

Regarding the overall progress toward a bilateral accord with Israel, Msgr. Ballestero said that “progress has been made, but questions still remain to be resolved.” After a meeting in Rome this week—which “took place in a thoughtful and constructive atmosphere,” according to a Vatican statement released at the conclusion of the sessions—the two sides agreed to resume negotiations in December.

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