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U.S., Middle East church leaders laud Kerry for peace moves

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. and Holy Land church leaders commended U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for advancing a framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The praise from over 40 leaders — all but five from the United States — representing several denominations came in part because of the opportunities it would provide for Christians in the region.

“Given the difficulties involved, a framework for conclusive negotiations seems an essential step if there is to be progress towards a final status agreement,” said the statement posted this week by Churches for Middle East Peace, a Washington-based umbrella body. “Without progress now, we fear an important opportunity for peace will be lost.”

Kerry is set to unveil a framework for continuing the Israeli-Palestinian talks, although leaders in both camps have balked in recent weeks at some of its reported outlines. Palestinian Authority negotiators are rejecting demands that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, while Israeli leaders are unhappy with its proposals to replace Israeli troops in the West Bank with security technology.

Churches for Middle East Peace billed the message as the first joint urging for peace by denominations based in Israel and the Palestinian areas, including Roman Catholics, Copts and Protestants, and U.S. denominations, including Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and an array of Protestant church leaders.

“The preservation and welfare of the Christian communities affected by this conflict are important to us,” the statement said. “A comprehensive agreement should greatly strengthen opportunities for them to flourish.”

Churches for Middle East Peace includes Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and mainline Protestant churches. Not represented are a number of evangelical Protestant streams of U.S. Christianity, where pro-Israel sentiment tends to run higher.

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