Erdogan Confers With Pope in Rome

Erdogan Confers With Pope in Rome Erdogan Confers With Pope in Rome

Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the first visit by a Turkish president to see the pope in the Vatican in 59 years on Monday as Rome was put under heavy security measures for fear of violent demonstrations.

Erdogan said before he left Turkey that he would discuss the Middle East situation and Beit-ul-Moqaddas in particular. The Vatican was due to issue a statement about the meeting later, Reuters reported.

Both Erdogan and Pope Francis are opposed to US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Beit-ul-Moqaddas as the capital of Israel, which many US allies say could doom Middle East peace efforts.

Erdogan, returning a visit made by the pope to Turkey in 2014, spoke privately with Francis for about 50 minutes in the pontiff’s frescoed study in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, which he uses mostly for ceremonial purposes.

Erdogan’s motorcade entered a virtually deserted St. Peter’s Square after the streets that are usually bustling with tourists were closed due to security fears.

Some 3,500 police and security forces were on duty in Rome and authorities declared a no-go area for unauthorized demonstrations that included the Vatican, Erdogan’s hotel and Italian palaces where he is meeting the president and prime minister.

Erdogan and the pope spoke by phone in December after Trump made his announcement on Beit-ul-Moqaddas and agreed that any change to the city’s status quo should be avoided.

The Vatican backs a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with both sides agreeing on the status of the holy city—home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions—as part of the peace process.

Among Erdogan’s delegation was the Mehmet Pacaci, Turkey’s ambassador to the Vatican. Erdogan recalled Pacaci to Turkey in 2015 when Francis called the 1915 killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians “genocide”—something Turkey has always denied.

The ambassador stayed away for nearly 10 months.


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