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Vatican City (AFP) – The Vatican urged an unconditional ceasefire in Syria and the involvement of all regional players including Iran in peace talks next week, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Holy See on Tuesday.

Kerry spoke to the Vatican’s right-hand man, Pietro Parolin, chiefly about Syria and preparations for the Geneva II talks due to start on January 22, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters.

“The Holy Father’s stance on peace was reiterated,” he said, adding that Kerry and Parolin also discussed the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and efforts to restore stability in South Sudan.

A statement following a workshop on Syria in the Vatican on Monday said the recent interim deal over Iran’s nuclear program could have a positive effect for the Geneva II talks.

“To build the basis for regional peace, Geneva II needs to ensure inclusive participation of all parties to this conflict, within the region and beyond,” it said.

The deal with Iran creates “a vital foundation for a lasting peace in Syria” and “gives the world great hope that an extended period of grave distrust between Iran and other nations in the region and beyond might now be followed by a new era of trust and even cooperation.”

Russia, the chief ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, is keen to see Iran at the table for the Geneva II talks, but the United States has said Tehran should first back an accord setting a path to a transitional government in Syria.

“The first and most urgent step… should be an immediate ceasefire and end to violence of all kinds, an end without political preconditions,” the Vatican said, echoing a joint call by Moscow and Washington on Monday for local ceasefires and humanitarian corridors.

“All internal combatants should put down their weapons. All foreign powers should take immediate steps to stop the flow of arms and arms funding that feed the escalation of violence and destruction,” it said.

The Vatican said it was ready to support reconciliation between all religious communities in Syria and urged reconstruction work to begin as soon as a ceasefire is agreed, even before a final peace agreement.

The closed-door Vatican workshop brought together top Catholic leaders, academics and diplomats and is the latest in a series of peace initiatives by Pope Francis including a day of fasting and prayer in September 2013.

AFP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

President Trump boards Air Force One for his return flight home from Florida on July 31, 2020

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida senior residents have been reliable Republican voters for decades, but it looks like their political impact could shift in the upcoming 2020 election.

As Election Day approaches, Florida is becoming a major focal point. President Donald Trump is facing more of an uphill battle with maintaining the support of senior voters due to his handling of critical issues over the last several months. Several seniors, including some who voted for Trump in 2016, have explained why he will not receive their support in the November election.

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