Published: Tue, February 06, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Erdogan, Pope hold talks as Rome locked down in tight security

Erdogan, Pope hold talks as Rome locked down in tight security

The status of Jerusalem was one of the main issues discussed by Pope Francis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Vatican Monday in a meeting in the Vatican which lasted 50 minutes, the Vatican press office said. However, as earlier reported, Erdogan planned to discuss the status of Jerusalem.

Before leaving Turkey, Erdogan said the United States had isolated itself over Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to share with the Israelis as their future capital.

Finally, the statement said they discussed "the situation in the Middle East, with particular reference to the status of Jerusalem, highlighting the need to promote peace and stability in the region through dialogue and negotiation, with respect for human rights and worldwide law". The move was condemned and rejected by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the same month.

It was the first official visit by a Turkish president to the Vatican in 59 years.

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The pope and Erdogan previously met when Francis visited Turkey in 2014.

"The status of Jerusalem is a central issue for both Muslims and Christians; both the pope and myself are committed to protecting the status quo", Erdogan told Italian newspaper La Stampa on Sunday, adding, "No nation in the world has a right to take unilateral steps on a city which is dear to billions of people, ignoring global laws".

President Erdogan was accompanied by a 20-strong delegation including his wife, daughter and five ministers, and at the beginning of their audience thanked the Pope for his "interest". Joint efforts against xenophobia and Islamophobia were discussed during the meeting, with the leaders stressing that equating Islam with terror is wrong. The pontiff acknowledged a unsafe stereotype stigmatising Muslims was gaining ground.

"Under the pretext of the state of emergency and the fight against terrorism, tens of thousands of people have become victims of arbitrary repression that continues to worsen and that affects many groups within society, including lawyers, journalists, teachers, academics and researchers". Party President Giorgia Meloni said the Italian people sought to send a message to Turkey by rejecting Turkey's interest in joining the European Union. The pope was a prominent critic of President Donald Trump's decision. Rome also issued a 24-hour ban on demonstrations.

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