Kerry visits papal diplomat to talk Mideast peace

January 14, 2014 - 12:04 PM
Kerry Vatican

Secretary of State John Kerry, right, tours a section of the Vatican with Chief of Protocol Monsignor Jose Avelino Bettencourt, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. Kerry had an earlier meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Intrigued by signals of an invigorated papal diplomacy, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry enlisted a new ally Tuesday in his push for Mideast peace in what he described as a "common enterprise" between America and the Holy See.

In a brief visit to the Vatican, Kerry did not meet with Pope Francis, and said he had not expected to. However, he described a broad conversation with the pope's chief diplomat, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, that touched on everything ranging from violence in Syria and Africa to ending a generations-long feud between Israel and Palestine and addressing climate change and poverty.

Kerry is the first American Roman Catholic secretary of state to visit the Vatican since Edmund Muskie more than 30 years ago.

"Much was agreed on as a mutual agenda this morning, and I am particularly pleased to know that the Holy Father and the secretary of state in the Holy See will continue to speak out about peace in the Mideast, continue to try to bring parties together, and continue to help address some of the most pressing concerns that are challenging failed states and failing states in too many parts of the world," Kerry said.

"It was good to know we will have this common enterprise together," said Kerry, a , former altar boy.

Francis and Parolin are planning to visit Israel, the Palestinan territories and Jordan in May, marking the pope's second diplomatic trip. The timing might help Kerry, whose nine month quest to help broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestinian officials is scheduled to sunset about a month earlier.

Kerry said he gave Parolin a detailed briefing on his suggestions to bring peace to the region, most of which has not been publicly discussed.

In return, he said, Parolin "touched on just about every major issue that we are both working on that are of concern for all of us."

The Vatican released a short statement saying that Kerry and Parolin met for about an hour and 40 minutes and discussed the Mideast peace process and the war in Syria. It did not release details of the talks.

Kerry was in Rome briefly after concluding two days of preparations in Paris for negotiations next week over how to end the bloody civil war in Syria that has killed at least 130,000 people in nearly three years. On Monday, Francis called for "renewed political will to end the conflict" there.

___

Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

Follow Lara Jakes on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/larajakesAP