BREAKING NEWS: Abbas welcomes Vatican call to end occupation October 25, 2010

Ma’an News Agency -  24 October 2010

President Mahmoud Abbas and chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed Sunday the Vatican Synod’s call for an end to Israel’s occupation a day earlier, and urged further support for Palestinian Christians.

“President Abbas reaffirmed that Christians from the Holy Land are an integral part of the Palestinian people. The immigration of Christians from Palestine unacceptably alters our national composition and gravely damages the prospects of our future state,” Erekat said in a statement.

“We join the Synod in their call to the international community to uphold the universal values of freedom, dignity and justice. There is a moral and legal responsibility that the international community must hold effectively to put a speedy end to the illegal Israeli occupation,” the official said.

Separation wall ‘an insult to Christianity’

Erekat added that Pope Benedict “saw with his own eyes the wall isolating Bethlehem from Jerusalem,” and described it as “an insult to more than 2000 years of Christian history in the Holy Land,” as well as a central reason for forced Palestinian migration.

The PLO official also addressed remarks by the Synod that “Israel cannot use the biblical concept of a promised land or a chosen people to justify new settlements in Jerusalem or territorial claims.”

He said this was a “clear message” to Israel “that it may not claim that Jerusalem is an exclusively Israeli city … We envision Jerusalem as an open and shared city, the capital of the two states and three faiths, while the Israeli vision strives for an exclusively Jewish city and has imposed a legal regime aimed at ethnically cleansing the city of its indigenous Christian and Muslim population.”

Catholic Church ‘part of our social fabric’

In the coming weeks, the PLO will engage in further discussion with the Vatican to consolidate relations and said “we don’t deal with the Catholic Church as strangers but part of our social fabric. The Church has made invaluable contributions to the development of Palestinian society, Muslim and Christian alike, and we look forward to strengthening these relations.”

Erekat concluded by inviting the world to “support the presence of Christians in the Holy Land by forcing Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands and recognize the Palestinian State over the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as an open and shared city capital of two states.This vision will bring genuine promise to the current dark reality in the so-called promised land.”

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