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Long-awaited Vatican-Israel judicial accord near conclusion?

CWN - June 06, 2013

Vatican and Israeli negotiators announced “significant progress” toward an agreement after a June 5 negotiating session, and an Israeli official predicted that a long-awaited agreement on the legal and economic status of Church institutions in the Holy Land would be completed before the end of this year.

Zeev Elkin, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, joined in the June 5 talks along with Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, a Vatican undersecretary of State. The participation of ranking officials in the negotiations could be further evidence that an accord is nearly, after 20 years of often desultory talks.

The Vatican-Israeli accord was promised as part of the “Fundamental Agreement” that was announced in 1993, opening the way for Vatican recognition of Israel. Negotiations proceeded fitfully for several years, and had effectively stopped before US intervention helped prompt renewed talks beginning in 2004. Since that time, Israeli government spokesmen have often said that an agreement was close, whereas Vatican officials have been more circumspect in their public statements.

However, after the June 5 meeting the Vatican negotiators joined in a public statement noting the “significant progress” of the talks. The joint statement indicated that both parties hoped to accelerate the talks and “look forward to an expedited conclusion in the near term.”

Elkin, the senior member of the Israeli negotiating team, went further, saying that the accord would be completed this year. The next negotiating session is scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in December.

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