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Pope Francis used a meeting with the President of Turkey on Monday to discuss the status of Jerusalem and urge the Turkish leader to pursue peace instead of war.

A Vatican statement said the talks included "the status of Jerusalem, highlighting the need to promote peace and stability in the region through dialogue and negotiation, with respect for human rights and global law", Reuters reported.

Before the meeting, President Erdogan said the status of Jerusalem would be top of the agenda after he and Francis previously discussed their disapproval of President Trump's decision to shift America's embassy to Israel there.

In an address on December 6, 2017, from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel's government as merely based on reality. In a controversial move last month, Turkey launched an offensive against Kurdish forces in Afrin near the Turkish border.

Anadolu Agency, a state-run Turkish news agency, said Erdogan and Francis also expressed the need to avoid "provocative statements that link Islam with terrorism".

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It was the first time in 59 years that a Turkish president has visited the Vatican.

Anti-Erdogan demonstrators took to the streets of Rome during the visit, with at least one person injured and two arrested in scuffles with the security forces. On Monday, they protested near Castel Sant'Angelo, near the Vatican.

The Pope also gave the president a copy of his encyclical letter, "Laudato Si'" on the care of creation, his 2018 message for the World Day of Peace and an engraving of what St Peter's Basilica and the square looked like in the 17th century.

He told thousands of people at his general audience: "I can not keep quiet about my deep worry about the situation that has been created in the last few days". "At least 150,000 civil servants have lost their jobs, over 50,000 have been jailed and more than 170 journalists are now in prison along with hundreds of lawyers and human rights defenders", the letter reads. Turkey agreed to try to hold back the flood of refugees trying to reach Europe as part of a 3-billion-euro (then $3.4 billion) deal with the European Union.

Erdogan is scheduled to meet Italy's president and premier after the audience in the Apostolic Palace.


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