Vatican, Israel report progress on improving ties


ROME (JTA) — The Vatican and Israel have made what they say is "very significant progress" toward resolving outstanding issues that have divided them and finalizing an agreement governing their bilateral relations.

"The Parties have agreed on the next steps towards the conclusion of the Agreement," stated a joint communique issued following a meeting Tuesday at the Vatican of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and Israel.

"The negotiations took place in an open, friendly and constructive atmosphere, and very significant progress was made," it said.

Israel and the Vatican signed a fundamental agreement establishing diplomatic relations at the end of 1993, but accord on several issues — including tax exemptions and property rights for the Catholic Church — have remained unresolved despite years of fitful negotiations.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, headed the Israeli delegation at Tuesday’s meeting. The communique said the next plenary session will take place Dec. 1 in Israel.

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