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Pope backs UN efforts to end conflicts in Syria, Libya

Pope Francis gives his annual Christmas message at the St. Peter's Basilica on December 25, 2015  © AFP

Pope Francis gives his annual Christmas message at the St. Peter’s Basilica on December 25, 2015

VATICAN CITY, Dec 25 – Pope Francis offered his full support for UN efforts to end the conflicts in Syria and Libya in his Christmas message on Friday.

“We pray… that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people,” he said.

“It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country.”

The UN Security Council last week unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing a proposed peace plan to bring the Syrian regime and opposition together for talks in January.

The plan followed nearly two months of strenuous efforts among top diplomats from 17 countries, including regime backers Russia and Iran.

Syria’s regime said Thursday it was ready to take part in new talks in Geneva aimed at ending the war, though it appeared to make its participation conditional on which opposition groups attend.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council gave its backing to the new national unity government in embattled Libya, a move it hopes will help stem mass migration to Europe and reverse gains made by jihadists from the Islamic State group.

The 15-nation council gave its support to the deal signed last week in the Moroccan town of Skhirat between representatives of strife-torn Libya’s two competing regimes.

The pope also used his message to denounce the destruction of cultural heritage, in a clear reference to the Islamic State group.

He said “atrocities” committed by IS “do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples”.

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IS has launched a campaign of destruction against buildings and monuments that fall outside its harsh interpretation of Islam, ranging from Christian churches to Muslim graves, as well as ancient treasures like the temples of Palmyra.


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