Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah called Tuesday for Israel and the Palestinians to reach a "just solution" on the Holy City that is at the very heart of their half-century conflict.
"The details are for the political leaders but our view on Jerusalem is that what was Palestinian and is Palestinian should be given to the Palestinians and what was Israeli and is Israeli should be given to the Israelis," Sabbah said at a press conference here.
"Jerusalem is the heart of the Palestinian cause and a just solution for both sides has to be reached," he added.
Sabbah was speaking after Israel suggested Tuesday it would be willing to consider ceding sovereignty over the contentious al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City in return for Palestinians renouncing the right of return for several million refugees.
The mosque compound, the third holiest in the Muslim world, sits atop the Western Wall, the last vestige of the most sacred shrine in Judaism.
Israeli and Palestinian delegations were due to start separate consolations with US officials Tuesday on waves to revive the peace process that has been brought to its knees by 12 weeks of unrest that has claimed the lives of more than 340 people.
Sabbah, a Palestinian, took Israel to task over its use of force against the Palestinians who have borne the brunt of the casualties during their latest Intifada or uprising against the 33-year Israeli occupation.
"We condemn violence on both sides and we ask soldiers and leaders on both sides to try not to give orders to shoot," he said.
"But the responsibility is not equal. Always when the Palestinians shoot there is no victim, when the Israelis retaliate there have been victims."
Sabbah also protested at the continued "siege" of Bethlehem, the Palestinian-run town that is the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ, a week before Christmas.
"Bethlehem, the center of our celebrations, is under siege and experiencing famine. Its residents cannot leave, nor can visitors enter," he complained, referring to a crippling blockade imposed by Israel on the Palestinian territories soon after the violence erupted in late September.
"This kind of siege on Bethlehem and other Palestine towns and villages must cease. We appeal to the political leaders to lift this siege, on the occasion of the feasts of Ramadan and Christmas," he said referring to the Muslim and Christian religious festivals -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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