Turkish president to visit Vatican in February to discuss status of Jerusalem

Turkish president to visit Vatican in February to discuss status of Jerusalem

Turkish president to visit Vatican in February to discuss status of Jerusalem

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pope Francis are seen in this composite photo. (Credit: CNS composite photo/Paul Haring and Simela Pantzartz, Reuters.)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis on Feb. 5, the Vatican press office confirmed on Tuesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis on Feb. 5, the Vatican press office confirmed on Tuesday.

According to Turkish media reports, the talks are expected to focus on the status of Jerusalem after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he will move the American embassy in Israel to the city.

Francis and Erdogan spoke by telephone about the issue on Dec. 29, with the Vatican saying the Turkish leader initiated the call.

Trump announced Dec. 6 that he was formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and ordered the State Department to begin preparations to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Vatican has protested the decision, saying it is causing tensions to rise in the region.

The Turkish newspaper Sabah reported Erdogan seeks the pope’s cooperation in protecting Jerusalem as “the holy city of three divine religions.” The newspaper said migration and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria will also be on the agenda.

The meeting suggests a warming relationship between the Vatican and Turkey, which were frayed when Francis publicly declared in 2015 the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during and after World War I was a “genocide,” leading Turkey to recall its ambassador to the Vatican back to Istanbul for consultations.

Francis repeated his use of the word “genocide” when he visited Armenia in 2016, causing the Turkish deputy prime minister to say the Vatican had “the mentality of the Crusades.”

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