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Paris (AFP) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet top officials at the Vatican Tuesday to discuss Middle East peace efforts ahead of Pope Francis’s first visit to the Holy Land in May.

Kerry’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki said he would meet with Secretary of State of the Holy See Pietro Parolin “to discuss foreign policy priorities, including Pope Francis’s vocal leadership on the Middle East Peace Process, poverty and humanitarian issues.”

Kerry, who is Catholic, was in Paris Monday, where he has taken part in talks on the Syria crisis. He will travel on to Rome and the Vatican and then to Kuwait City for a Syria donor’s conference.

The 77-year-old pontiff, who has made many appeals for peace in the Middle East, said earlier this month he would visit Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem in May.

Kerry has made a fierce push to coax Israel and the Palestinians towards an elusive peace deal, making repeated visits to the region.

Direct negotiations began in late July with the aim of reaching a deal within nine months, but so far there has been little visible progress.

Photo: AFP Photo/Alain Jocard

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