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Peres invites Pope Francis to Jerusalem

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Israeli president and Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres invited Pope Francis on an official state visit to Israel after a meeting in the Vatican on Tuesday.

"I am expecting you in Jerusalem. Not just me but all the people of Israel," Peres said in English to the pope at the end of their 30-minute meeting.

The president gave Francis a bible in Hebrew and English, with a dedication inside which read: "To his Holiness Pope Francis, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go."

On Wednesday, Peres will visit the city of Assisi, birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi, after whom the new pontiff -- Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina -- took his name.

"I shall go to Assisi and pray for you," he told the pope.

The meeting, the first between a leader from the Middle East and Francis, who was elected in March, came at a time of important developments in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Vatican did not reveal the details of the talks but before Peres left for the Holy See he said that it "has an important role to play in the stability of the Middle East and I am sure that this visit will contribute both to the state of Israel and to the cause of peace."

On Tuesday, Israel's lead peace negotiator Tzipi Livni Tuesday praised as "important" a concession by the Arab League that Israel and the Palestinians could trade land in a bid to move the peace process forward.

The development emerged out of talks in Washington between US Secretary of State John Kerry and an Arab League delegation to discuss the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

The proposal would see 22 Arab countries normalising ties with Israel in return for a withdrawal from lands it occupied during the 1967 Six Day War.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130430/peres-invites-pope-francis-jerusalem-0