VATICAN CITY (AFP) — Pope Benedict XVI and President Mahmoud 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 neighbors and within internationally recognized 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 neighboring Arab states say they are planning to march to Israel.

Thousands of protesters in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza last month tried to force their way across the ceasefire lines in a mass show of mourning over the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from what became the state of Israel in 1948.