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Bishops Ask UN to Help Bridge Israeli-Palestinian Divide

Pope Benedict XVI, left, shakes hands with Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, Antonios Naguib on the last day of the synod of bishops from the Middle East, at the Vatican, 23 Oct 2010

Catholic Bishops from the Middle East are appealing to the United Nations and the international community to help find a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The bishops have been meeting in a regional assembly in Rome for the past two weeks. In their concluding message, they said Israel should not use the Biblical concept of "a promised land" or "a chosen people" to justify the construction of more Jewish settlements in Arab East Jerusalem.

The bishops met with Pope Benedict before issuing their statement Saturday, which called for an end to Israeli "occupation" of Palestinian land, and for progress toward "an independent and sovereign homeland" for Palestinians.

In contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state before Israel will be ready to end their conflict.

The bishops said a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute - the same position held by the United States - would allow Palestinians to live with dignity within internationally recognized borders, and also would allow Israel to enjoy "peace and security."

Direct talks between Israel and Palestinians have stalled since Israel declared its 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank has expired. Palestinians oppose the building of any Jewish settlements on land they expect to be part of a future Palestinian state.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.