Israel peace talks collapse

 Prayers were being said around the world last night following the collapse of the Middle East peace summit at Camp David. A White House spokesman said yesterday afternoon London time (25 July) that the talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had ended without agreement. On Monday, local Christian leaders and Palestinian officials in Jerusalem issued a joint statement calling for Palestinian sovereignty over traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, including the walled Old City. The Palestinians want the eastern sector of the city, captured by Israel from Jordan in 1967, as the capital of a future state but Israel says it will never give up sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem. The statement, issued by local leaders of the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches and Palestinian officials, said: "The Old City is part of east Jerusalem. All of east Jerusalem is Palestinian. The ancient, authentic, continued Christian presence and life here is part of our identity and of the Palestinian reality." The statement objected to any shared Israeli-Palestinian control of Jerusalem's walled Old City which houses the city's holiest religious shrines. Some news reports said an American proposal raised at the summit would have left the Jewish and Armenian quarters of the Old City in Israeli hands while giving the Palestinians some sort of municipal authority over the Christian and Muslim quarters. The Israelis insisted on control of the Jewish quarter - and the Western Wall, which is all that remains of the Jewish temple destroyed in 70 AD that attracts hundreds of thousands of Jewish worshippers each year. On Sunday, Pope John Paul II said he was following the peace talks carefully and praying over them. Pope John Paul II appealed for Jerusalem to be governed under international protection. Only special status could guarantee religious freedoms there, he said. Speaking in his weekly Sunday address to pilgrims in St Peter's Square, he said: "I hope that they are always driven by a sincere desire for respect and for justice for all and for reaching a just and lasting peace. "At the same time, I want to ask all the parties not to neglect the importance of the spiritual dimension of the city of Jerusalem, with its sacred places and the community of three monotheistic religions that surround them." The Pope added: "The Holy See persists in maintaining that only a special statute internationally guaranteed can effectively preserve the most sacred areas of the Holy City and assure liberty of the faiths and of religion for all the faithful that, in the region and the entire world, look to Jerusalem as a crossroads of peace and of co-existence."

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