Pope Benedict XVI
Photo: AP
Photo: Gil Yohanan
‘Your very presence will cause the situation to calm down.’ Olmert
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Pope to Olmert: I’ll visit Israel when tensions recede

Benedict XVI praises Israel’s ceasefire policy in Gaza, expresses satisfaction with PM’s trip to Germany

ROME – Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who invited him to Israel, “I will come to Israel when the situation calms down.”


The two met for 30 minutes in the Vatican. Later, Olmert is slated to meet with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema.


Sources in the PM’s Office described the meeting as ‘good,’ adding that it was extended by an extra 15 minutes due to additional issues that arose in their talks.


The pope expressed his satisfaction with Olmert’s visit to Germany and praised Israel policy of maintaining the ceasefire in Gaza.


The two also discussed the financial agreement regarding the Catholic Church’s status in Israel, with the prime minister assuring the pope that he had instructed officials to conclude the lengthy discussions on the matter. 


The prime minister asked the pope to include in his next sermon to his followers a statement against Holocaust denial, as it was embodied in the recent Holocaust denial conference in Tehran.


Olmert asked the pope to visit Israel, and said that his very presence will cause the situation to calm down. In addition, Olmert asked Pope Benedict XVI to encourage Christian pilgrims to visit Israel.


'Italians won't rush to impose sanction on Iran'

The prime minister is currently meeting Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. According to projections made by Israeli diplomats in Rome, Prodi will ask Olmert to advance talks with Damascus. His objective, clarified a political official Wednesday to Ynet, is to reduce Syria's entanglement in Lebanon as well as to allow Syria to distance itself from the Axis of Evil in Iran. On this subject, according to Israeli estimates in Rome, disagreement is expected.


Another important issue will come up between Prodi and Olmert. This is the Israeli request to impose economic sanctions on Iran, which is expected to come up in the UN Security Council on December 25. German Chancellor Angela Merkel already ensured Olmert her support in this effort after EU attempts to come to an understanding with the Iranians fell through.


However, the Italians, according to the senior source in the Israeli Embassy in Rome, won't rush to impose sanction on Iran. Italy has the largest economic ties to Iran out of all the European states. Italy buys fuel, gas and related products in Iran. The extent of trade between Rome and Tehran stands at some 5 billion euro a year. The Italians, said the Israeli source, won't be enthusiastic about relinquishing their economic assets in Iran.


פרסום ראשון: 12.13.06, 15:35
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