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Reports: PLO accepts papal invite to Vatican talks with Israel

May 25, 2014 2:58 P.M. (Updated: May 27, 2014 2:43 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A senior Palestinian official told US media on Sunday that the PLO had accepted an invitation to attend talks with an Israeli delegation at the Vatican.

A member of the PLO executive committee was quoted by CNN and The Associated Press as agreeing to the request, which came as Pope Francis visited the occupied West Bank.

Francis extended the invitation at a mass Sunday in Bethlehem's Manger Square.

"In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with (Israeli) President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace."

He added: "I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer."

PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi told CNN that Abbas would go to the Vatican.

The Israeli president's office also welcomed the invitation, CNN reported.

"President Peres has always supported, and will continue to support, any attempts to progress the cause of peace," a statement from Peres' office was quoted as saying.

A PLO spokesman told Ma'an that he was unable to confirm or deny the reports.

Peace talks broke down in April when Israel abruptly withdrew its negotiator, offering a pretext that it could not negotiate with a Palestinian government that included Hamas.

The Israeli withdrawal followed a deal signed between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank and the Islamist faction which rules Gaza.
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