Pope Francis calls for new peace talks on Syria
'Human tragedy' in Syria must be resolved, says pontiff18 September, 15:47
(ANSA) - Vatican City, September 18 - A peaceful resolution to the "human tragedy" in war-torn Syria must be found quickly through thoughtful negotiation, Pope Francis urged on Wednesday.
Speaking at his weekly general audience to about 40,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pope called for "dialogue and negotiation, respecting justice and dignity," in order to bring an end to the "human tragedy" in Syria.
His remarks came just days before Saturday's United Nations World Day of Peace, held each year on September 21 to draw international attention to conflicts and crises around the globe.
The Pope, whose remarks were broadcast internationally, urged Catholics to support diplomatic and political efforts in "hotbeds of war" in the world, as well as answer a call to prayer from the World Council of Churches.
"I invite Catholics from around the world to join with other Christians to continue to ask God for the gift of peace in the most troubled parts of our planet," said the pope. "My thoughts go especially to the dear people of Syria, whose human tragedy can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiation, with respect for justice and the dignity of every person, especially the weakest and most defenceless," Francis added.
It's believed that more than 100,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising against President President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.
Millions of Syrians have fled the country, most to neighbouring nations. while millions more have been internally displaced.
United Nations weapons inspectors have determined that chemical warfare was unleashed this year against civilians, and in response, the United States has threatened to launch attacks against the Assad regime.
But on Tuesday, the five permanent UN Security Council members - France, the UK, the US, Russia and China - met in New York to discuss a resolution on how to deal with the issue of Syria's chemical weapons, the BBC reported on its website.
A draft resolution put forward by the UK, France and the US is seen as a key step in a US-Russia brokered plan under which Syria will disclose its arsenal within a week and eliminate it by mid-2014.
The pope's comments on the crisis in Syria and its effects throughout the Middle East were translated in Arabic so as to be understood by people gathered in St. Peter's Square but also those listening throughout the world.
A meeting on the subject was also planned within the Vatican later Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the pope added that he hoped world leaders could find enough good will to resolve the crisis.
"May peace, the gift of Jesus, always live in our hearts and support the intentions and actions of the leaders of nations and all people of good will," said the pope. "Let us commit ourselves to encouraging all efforts for a diplomatic and political solution of all the focus points of war that still are a cause for concern". An earlier prayer vigil organized on Sept. 7 by Pope Francis, calling for peace through dialogue in Syria, was joined in St. Peter's Square not only by Catholics, but by people of other faiths.