Trump arrives in Italy to meet Pope Francis, Italian leaders

US President Donald Trump spent the last two days in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, where he called on Israelis and Palestinians to make compromises for peace.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US President Donald Trump salutes as he arrives at the Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, May 23, 2017.

US President Donald Trump arrived in Italy on Tuesday ahead of meetings with Pope Francis and Italian leaders, on the third leg of his first international trip since taking office.

Trump's meeting with the head of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics on Wednesday comes after the pair sparred at a distance on issues including migration, climate change and Islam.

Air Force One landed at Leonardo da Vinci airport, where Trump and his wife Melania were greeted by Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano. The pair were then driven to the residence of the US ambassador in the heart of Rome.

Trump is due to spend less than 24 hours in Italy before flying to Brussels for talks with European Union and NATO chiefs. He will return to Italy on Thursday for a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) major industrialised nations in Sicily.

The US president started his tour of the Middle East and Europe in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

He has spent the last two days in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, where he called on Israelis and Palestinians to make compromises for peace.

Trump also vowed he was "personally committed" to helping Israel reach a deal with the Palestinians, while backtracking from previous claims that could be easier than thought to achieve.

"Making peace however will not be easy," Trump told an audience at the Israel Museum.

Both sides will face tough decisions. But with determination, compromise and the belief that peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal.

TRT World’s Nicole Johnston reports from occupied East Jerusalem.

Meeting with Abbas

Trump's speech came after he met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank earlier in the day.

Abbas had sought to convince the unpredictable US president to remain committed to an independent Palestinian state.

Trump arrived in Bethlehem by motorcade, crossing a checkpoint at Israel's controversial separation wall, and was greeted by Abbas and other dignitaries outside the city's presidential palace.

Abbas reiterated his call for a two-state solution to the conflict, including a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

"We are ready to open dialogue with our Israeli neighbours to build confidence and create a real opportunity for peace," he said after talks with Trump.

The US president used the occasion to also condemn the "evil losers" behind a bomb blast at a pop concert in the British city of Manchester that killed 22 people.

The talks came with hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails on hunger strike since April 17, which Abbas referred to in his remarks after meeting Trump.

Palestinians staged a general strike Monday in support of the prisoners.

Clashes broke out near a checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah involving several hundred stone-throwing youths and Israeli soldiers who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas, leaving at least one wounded.

Disputed Jerusalem

Trump initially sparked deep concern among Palestinians when he backed away from the long-established US commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict.

Meeting Netanyahu in Washington in February, he said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting Israeli right-wingers who want to see most of the West Bank annexed.

During his election campaign, Trump also advocated breaking with decades of precedent and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, alarming Palestinians.

He has since said the move is still being looked at.

At the same time, he urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

The most high-profile moment of Trump's stay in Jerusalem was his visit to the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.

He became the first sitting US president to visit the site in the Israeli-annexed east of the city.

He was not accompanied by any Israeli leaders during the visit.

Allowing them to do so could have led to accusations that Washington was implicitly recognising Israel's unilateral claim of sovereignty over the site, which would break with years of US and international precedent.

The status of Jerusalem is ultra-sensitive and has been among the most difficult issues in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, stalled since April 2014.

Israel occupied the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, in the Six-Day War of 1967.

It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community and claims the entire city as its capital.

The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies