Vatican summons US and Israeli envoys over West Bank annexation

Mounted police officers patrol the street leading to St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican (LaPresse via AP)

Reuters  /  July 2, 2020

Vatican secretary of state voices concern that planned unilateral action jeopardises peace in the region.

The Vatican, in a highly unusual move, summoned both the US and Israeli ambassadors to express the Holy See’s concern about Israel’s moves to extend its sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

A Vatican statement said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, had meetings with US Ambassador Callista Gingrich and Israeli Ambassador Oren David on Tuesday.

A senior diplomatic source said the cardinal met the two envoys separately, a detail which was not clear in the Vatican statement.

It said Cardinal Parolin expressed “the concern of the Holy See regarding possible unilateral actions that may further jeopardise the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the delicate situation in the Middle East”.

Israeli leaders decided in May that cabinet and parliamentary deliberations on extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, in co-ordination with Washington, could begin as of July 1.

But with no agreement with Washington yet on the modalities of the move under a peace proposal announced by US President Donald Trump in January, and talks with the White House still under way, no cabinet session was scheduled for Wednesday.

The Vatican statement reiterated its position in support of a two-state solution, saying “Israel and the State of Palestine have the right to exist and to live in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders”.

The Vatican appealed to Israelis and Palestinians to do everything possible to reopen the process of direct negotiations on the basis of UN resolutions.

Palestinians seek the West Bank for a future state. In a show of Palestinian unity, some 3,000 people in the Gaza Strip, including members of the mainstream Fatah party and the rival Hamas group that runs the enclave, protested against annexation.