Turkish president heads to Italy to discuss Jerusalem with pope
08 February, 2018, 12:21
Turkish president began his two-day visit to the Vatican City Monday that saw him being welcomed with an official ceremony at the Apostolic Palace.
"This is the angel of peace who strangles the demon of war", the pope told Erdogan.
The pope and Turkish president also exchanged gifts.
Turkey last month sent troops into neighbouring Syria to attack Kurdish YPG fighters near its southern border. The Pope later hosted Chaldean Church leadership including Patriarch Sako.
Thousands of police are on duty while President Erdogan visits.
In December, the U.S. President Donald Trump had chose to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, instead of Tel Aviv, drawing a large criticism from the worldwide community.
Erdogan, a devout Muslim, met Pope Francis on a papal visit to Turkey in November 2014.
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Nevertheless, a small group of Kurdish protesters gathered near the Vatican to accuse the Turkish leader of being a "dictator", a "criminal" and that he had "blood on his hands".
The president arrived at a tightly cordoned off St Peter's Square for his papal audience in a dark Mercedes with Turkish flags on either side at the end of a long motorcade which had weaved through Rome's streets on a wet and grey morning.
United by common goals of peace in the fractured Middle East, Francis and Erdogan's relationship has warmed since a 2016 dispute regarding the Armenian Genocide.
The Holy See says that both agreed on the need to promote peace in the Middle East through dialogue and negotiation, with respect for human rights and worldwide law.
Erdogan, in an interview with Italian daily newspaper La Stampa on Sunday, said he and the pope already had talked by telephone about the Jerusalem issue and said both of them favored working to maintain the status quo for the city considered holy by three religions. A statement from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were "cordial" and that the two men spoke about the two states' bilateral relations.
During the meeting between Erdoğan and Pope Francis, the importance of joint efforts against xenophobia and Islamophobia were also discussed. On Monday, they protested near Castel Sant'Angelo, near the Vatican.
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