VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has again stressed the importance of preserving the status quo in Jerusalem and urged fresh talks between Israel and Palestinians on a two-state solution, the Vatican said Thursday.
The Argentine pontiff strongly opposed United States President Donald Trump's bitterly-contested move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his plans to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Referring to "the unique nature of Jerusalem" in a letter to Egypt's top Muslim cleric Ahmed al-Tayeb, Francis said that "only a special status, guaranteed by the international community, can preserve its identity, (and) unique vocation as a place of peace".
Only in that way "would allow a future of reconciliation and hope for the entire region," he said.
"The Holy See will not cease from urgently calling for dialogue to resume between Israelis and Palestinians for a negotiated solution aimed at the peaceful coexistence of two states," the letter continued.
Jerusalem, which contains sites considered sacred by Christians, Jews and Muslims, is of huge importance to both Israel and the Palestinians and Francis had already urged in December for the "status quo" to be respected.
There were protests in the Middle East and elsewhere over Trump's declaration, a move that drew global condemnation and sparked days of unrest in the Palestinian territories.