A Vatican official said Wednesday that Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homeland and he hoped Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would address the issue.
Martino, who heads the Vatican’s office for migrants, said an agreement to restart peace talks, reached Tuesday in Annapolis, Md., was encouraging and that he hoped by this time next year concrete measures would be under way.
“It is my hope that all the parts of the problem are taken into consideration such as that of the Palestinian refugees, who like all other refugees, have the right to return to their homeland,” Martino said.
The Vatican often calls for justice for the Palestinians without specifically mentioning the right of return. It was not clear if Cardinal Renato Martino was expressing his own opinion or staking out a new Vatican position.
The Palestinian refugee issue, which has bedeviled previous Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, was not directly mentioned in the Annapolis statement, though the agreement pledges to resolve all “core issues” by the end of next year.
Millions of Palestinians want to return to properties their families lost after Israel’s 1948 creation. Israel opposes any return of the refugees, saying it would mean the end of the country as a Jewish state.
Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Israel would agree to a return of the refugees only within the borders of a future Palestinian state.
“Israel also believes that Palestinian refugees should have the right to return to their homeland, which is the Palestinian state, which will be established within the framework of the negotiations,” he told The Associated Press in Washington.
Martino spoke at a news conference to launch Pope Benedict XVI’s annual message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which the Catholic Church marks on Jan. 13.
Source: AP via Yahoo! News