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Pope Francis meets with Netanyahu at Vatican

By CNN Staff
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Vatican expresses hope for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
  • Netanyahu meets with pope at Vatican's Apostolic Palace
  • Pope expected to visit Israel, Palestinian territories next year

(CNN) -- Pope Francis and Vatican officials expressed hope that Palestinians and Israelis can forge a peace agreement "as soon as possible" as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the pontiff Monday, the Vatican said.

The meeting with Netanyahu at the Vatican's Apostolic Palace comes months ahead of Francis' anticipated trip to the Holy Land, a biblical region that includes Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu also met with the Vatican's secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin.

The discussions focused on "the complex political and social situation in the Middle East, with particular reference to the reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, expressing hope that a just and lasting solution respecting the rights of both parties may be reached as soon as possible," the Vatican said.

Pope Francis calls for big changes in Roman Catholic Church

Pope Francis is expected to visit Israel on May 25-26, an official Israeli source told CNN last month. The Vatican would not confirm the exact dates of the trip.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas invited Francis to travel to the Palestinian territories during Abbas' visit to the Vatican in October.

Pope Francis met with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Vatican in April. A Vatican communique issued after that meeting said they had discussed the hope for a speedy resumption of direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, visited the Holy Land in May 2009.

PHOTOS: Pope Francis

CNN's Hada Messia contributed to this report.

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