Foreign Ministry Director General Meets the Apostolic Nuncio

(Communicated by Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
February 16, 2000

In a meeting today (Feb 16) in the Foreign Ministry between Director General Eytan Bentsur and Archbishop Pietro Sambi following the agreement signed yesterday between the Vatican and the PLO, Bentsur stated that the political preamble to the agreement, and the specific article that deals with Jerusalem, are not acceptable to Israel. Israel rejects the criticism implied in the agreement regarding freedom of conscience and worship in Jerusalem and regarding free access to the holy sites. Never have these principles been respected in Jerusalem to the extent that they are now respected and practiced in the capital of Israel, under Israeli rule.

The Director General of the Foreign Ministry added that in addition to the essential problems, the timing of the signing of the agreement was unfortunate. Director General Bentsur also stated that the above mentioned agreement is apparently in conflict with the understandings and agreements between the State of Israel and the Vatican, and that in the next few days we will examine the degree of compatibility between these agreements.

The Director General of the Foreign Ministry noted to Archbishop Sambi that Israel views the upcoming visit of the Pope in the region as an important historical mission, adding that we are expecting a message of peace and conciliation that will not include any pre-determination of the results of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.