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Russian president, Pope to discuss Syria November 25

November 21, 2013, 16:36 UTC+3 MOSCOW

No message from Russian Orthodox Church head is expected to be given during the meeting

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MOSCOW, November 21. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin will make a working visit to the Vatican on November 25 for a meeting with Pope Francis and Secretary of State Mgr. Piero Parolin, presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said on Thursday.

“The meeting will focus on the settlement in Syria,” Ushakov said.

“No message from the Russian Orthodox Church head is expected to be given during the meeting,” the president aide said.

“During the meeting, key international issues are expected to be discussed. Russia and the Holy See call for preserving legal and moral principles in interstate contacts. They are expected to synchronise positions on further cooperation within international organisations - the U.N., the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Special attention will be paid to protecting Christian heritage in North Africa and the Middle East,” the Kremlin official said.

“This is the third visit to the Vatican by the Russian head of state when comprehensive diplomatic relations were established in December 2009,” Ushakov said, adding that Putin had met Pope John Paul II in 2000 and 2003 and Benedict XVI in 2007.

“The trip has special significance,” Ushakov said.

Ahead of the G20 summit in St Petersburg Pope Francis sent a message to Putin in which he came against using force in Syria. “The message gave an impetus to discussions on Syria at the summit and the events started developing positively due to the initiatives put forth by President Putin,” he said.

Putin and Pope Francis will have tete-a-tete talks. The Pope will be presented members of the Russian delegation - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Ushakov said, adding the Putin-Pope talks would involve Lavrov, Russian Ambassador to the Vatican Alexander Avdeyev and Ushakov himself.

“The talks are expected to focus on prospects for bilateral humanitarian, social, scientific and cultural cooperation. Special attention will be paid to cooperation in healthcare,” the Kremlin official said.

“The Russian Orthodox Church and the Rome Catholic Church step up relations. An agreement was reached to set up a working group for cultural interaction between the churches. Its priority is to promote concrete cultural projects, including the festival of traditional European Christian culture (in Moscow on May 24, 2014) and the World Congress of Families (in Moscow on September 10-12, 2014),” the presidential aide said.

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