Vatican official supports Palestinian refugees' right to return

 A Vatican official has said he hoped the Annapolis peace talks will address the issue of Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homeland. Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the Vatican's office for migrants, said an agreement to restart peace talks, reached on Tuesday was encouraging and 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 Palestinian refugee issue 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 were deported or fled to surrounsding countries when Israel was created in 1948. They want to return to properties their families lost, but Israel has always opposed 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. Martino spoke at a news conference to launch Pope Benedict XVI's annual message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will take place on January 13. Source: VIS/Vatican Radio

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