Jerusalem's Church Leaders Tell Summit Not to Separate City's Christians

Christians worried about dividing Old City between Palestinian and Israeli control.

The leaders of three of Jerusalem's principal churches have appealed to the parties at the Camp David Middle East summit in the United States not to separate the city's Christian communities as part of a future peace settlement.The heads of the Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian Apostolic churches in Jerusalem have set out their concerns in a joint letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.In the letter the religious leaders jointly call for the Camp David summit to ensure that "the Christian communities within the walls of the Old City are not separated from each other."The appeal follows reports that Yasser Arafat has proposed dividing the Old City, putting the Muslim and Christian quarters under Palestinian control, and leaving the Jewish and Armenian sections under Israeli sovereignty.The Jerusalem church leaders—Patriarch Diodoros of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Michel Sabbah of the Catholic Church and Patriarch Torkom of the Armenian Apostolic Church—write that they regard "the Christian and Armenian quarters of the Old City as inseparable and contiguous entities that are firmly united by the same faith."Furthermore, they say the peace negotiations over the issue of Jerusalem should ensure that "the fundamental freedoms of worship and access by all Christians to their holy sanctuaries are not impeded in way whatsoever."The three Christian leaders recommend that the officials at Camp David consider a system of "international guarantees" to safeguard the Christian presence in the Old City, and request the right to send representatives to the peace talks and to future forums dealing with the status of Jerusalem.For centuries, the letter states, ...

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