By Philip Pullella
BARI, Italy (Reuters) – Pope Francis warned Sunday of “unequal solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it was just a prelude to new crises, in an obvious reference to US President Donald Trump’s peace proposal for the Near East.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port of Bari, where he traveled to complete a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
“The Mediterranean region is currently at risk of outbreaks of instability and conflict both in the Middle East and in various countries in North Africa and between different ethnic, religious or denominational groups,” said Francis.
“We also cannot overlook the unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the risk of unequal solutions and the start of new crises,” he said.
Participants included Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, head of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose jurisdiction includes Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan.
It was believed that it was the first time that the Pope, who often defended both Palestinian rights and Israel’s security needs, has spoken publicly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Trump announced the plan on January 28.
The plan would recognize Israel’s authority over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and would require Palestinians to meet a number of conditions for a state with its capital in a West Bank village east of Jerusalem.
Although Trump’s stated goal was to end decades of conflict, his plan favored Israel, which was underlined by the absence of the Palestinians in his White House announcement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.
Palestinian and Arab League foreign ministers have rejected the plan, and the Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel.
Palestinians with broad international support want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future independent state, while Israel sees the entire city as a “united and eternal” capital.
The Pope expressed concern in 2018 when the United States announced the move of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying the city’s “status quo” should be respected. Francis has urged everyone to honor United States resolutions on the city.
“There is no sensible alternative to peace because any attempt at exploitation or domination affects both the author and the target. He shows a short-sighted understanding of reality because he cannot offer either future,” said Francis, speaking in General over the middle east.
Francis again warned against populist politicians who used “demagogic terms” like “invasion” when speaking of migration.
“Of course, acceptance and dignified integration are phases in a process that is not easy, but it is unthinkable that we can solve the problem by building walls,” he said.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella. Editing by Jane Merriman)