VATICAN CITY, JUNE 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel held a plenary meeting today in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to continue negotiations.
"The negotiations took place in a thoughtful and constructive atmosphere. The Commission took notice that significant progress was made towards the conclusion of the Agreement", reads an English-language communiqué made public the same day.
"The Parties have agreed on future steps and to hold the next plenary meeting on 6 December 2012 at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs," the statement said.
The Holy See delegation was headed by Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, under secretary for Relations with States, and the Israeli delegation by Danny Ayalon M.K. deputy minister of Foreign Affairs.
Monsignor Balestrero was interviewed by Vatican Radio about the meeting. He said that the agreement between the Holy See and Israel, which has been under negotiation for the last 13 years, is still not ready to be signed.
He also explained that the agreement concerns the life, activity and tax status of the Catholic Church in Israel. “It does not enter into territorial disputes,” he added. “There will be no mention of East Jerusalem or of anywhere in the West Bank,” Monsignor Balestrero said.
The agreement will only deal with Church properties that are not in Jerusalem of the West Bank, he explained.
“Therefore it is incorrect to say that, by this Agreement, the Holy See would be violating the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war,” he insisted.
Monsignor Balestrero also said that the agreement concerns only the Holy See and the State of Israel, and has no effect on agreements Israel has made with other States.