Vatican officials have met with senior officials of the Palestinian president and his party, with the security of Christians in the area a major concern.
An official Vatican press release relayed by VIS declared: "Talks between the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) resumed this morning at the Headquarters of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah, following the Basic Agreement signed in 2000.
The communique continued: "The talks aimed at a comprehensive international agreement regulating and promoting the presence and activities of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian Territories, so strengthening the special relations between the Holy See and the PLO.
"The talks were co-chaired by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, under secretary for the Holy See's relations with States, and Ziad Al-Bandak, the president's advisor for Christian relations [and were] held in a cordial atmosphere. Both sides agreed on establishing a working group to elaborate the aforementioned comprehensive agreement.
"The Holy See delegation was composed of Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine; Bishop Salim Sayegh, vicar general of the Latin Patriarchate in Amman; Msgr. Maurizio Malvestiti, under secretary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches; Msgr. Alberto Ortega, official of the Holy See Secretariat of State; Msgr. Waldemar Sommertag, counsellor of the apostolic delegation in Jerusalem; Ghassan Faramand, legal advisor, and Fr. Emil Salayta, president of the ecclesiastical tribunal court in Jerusalem.
"The Palestinian delegation was composed of Nabil Shath, member of the PLO central committee; Nimer Hamad, presidential advisor; Ambassador Shawqi Armali; Ramzi Khouri, head of the Palestinian National Fund, Bernard Sabella, member of the PLC, and lssa Kassissieh, deputy head of the Negotiations Affairs Department".