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'Spare no effort' to resolve Syrian crisis, says pope

Political solution is the 'only way to guarantee a future of reconciliation and peace', says pope during weekly prayer
Pope Francis addresses a crowd in St Peter's square during the Sunday Angelus prayer (AFP)

Pope Francis on Sunday urged the world community to make every effort to revive the Syrian peace talks and appealed for unstinting generosity for civilians fleeing the conflict.

"I appeal to the international community to spare no effort to urgently bring parties back to the negotiating table," the pontiff said at his weekly Angelus prayer.

"A political solution to the conflict is the only way to guarantee a future of reconciliation and peace for this dear, suffering country," Francis said, before asking worshippers in St Peter's Square to join him in reciting the Catholic prayer "Ave Maria" for Syria.

The pope also said he was deeply concerned about the plight of civilians forced to flee their homes as fighting raged.

"I hope that, thanks to generous solidarity, there will be the necessary help to ensure their survival and dignity," he said.

The Syrian peace talks were suspended on Wednesday amid renewed fighting on the ground, with advances into rebel-held territory by the Russian-backed government in Damascus.

The negotiations were suspended until 25 February.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura says he will meet in Munich, Germany, next Friday with countries that are part of an international group seeking a solution to the five-year-old war.

The Pope has intervened in a number of Middle East conflicts since assuming the position in 2013.

In late January, the pope met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, lauding the peace process that led to the ending of Iran's long years of isolation. 

Fresh from securing the lifting of international sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear programme, Rouhani spent 40 minutes at the Vatican talking privately to Pope Francis, a strong backer of the deal with Tehran.

In a statement afterwards, the Vatican said Francis had urged the Iranian leader to use Iran's important role to promote, together with other countries, "adequate political solutions" to the problems afflicting the region and to help combat terrorism and arms trafficking.

"I thank you for your visit and I hope for peace," Francis told his guest at the end of their meeting, when journalists were briefly allowed to listen in.

Pope Francis on Tuesday urged Iran to back peace efforts in the Middle East as the Islamic Republic's emergence from international isolation took a significant step with President Hassan Rouhani's first visit to the Vatican. - See more at:

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