Published: Tue, February 06, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

First for Turkey in 59 Years: Erdogan Visits Pope Francis at Vatican

First for Turkey in 59 Years: Erdogan Visits Pope Francis at Vatican

Officers in riot gear blocked around 150 protesters near Rome's Tiber River as Mr Edrogan paid the first Vatican visit by a Turkish head of state in 59 years.

The two leaders were expected to discuss their shared opposition to Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

After Erdogan's meeting, Pope Francis met with prelates of the Chaldean Church led by Patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans in Iraq Louis Raphael I Sako.

France's presidency said in a statement on Sunday that the two presidents spoke by telephone Saturday about the security, political and humanitarian situations in Syria - including Turkey's military offensive in the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

Erdogan had been expected to discuss Jerusalem's status after the USA decision to recognise it as Israeli capital.

It was the first visit of a Turkish president to the Vatican in almost 60 years.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, second from left, and his wife Emine, right, exchange gifts with Pope Francis as they meet at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. The Pope had expressed the same concerns over Trump's statement in December. Along with peace in the middle east other topics discussed included efforts to welcome refugees and "the condition of the Catholic community" in the Muslim majority country that self-describes as a secular state.

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The Vatican said Mr Erdogan and Francis also discussed Turkey's "reception of the many refugees and the challenges linked to this".

"This is the angel of peace who strangles the demon of war", the pope told Erdogan.

The right-wing Brothers of Italy party was also critical of Erdogan's visit, warning against immigration that it said would lead to the "Islamization of Europe".

The medallion which Francis gave the Turkish president was captioned "A World of Solidarity and Peace Founded on Justice", and designed by Guido Vero, an Italian sculptor.

Italian police said two people were detained after demonstrators tried to break through cordons to get closer to the Vatican from an authorized protest several blocks away.

Erdogan is scheduled to also meet Italy's president and prime minister.

France's presidency says Turkey and France want to see a political solution under the aegis of the United Nations, and that talks between France and Turkey will "intensify further in the coming days".

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