VATICAN CITY — Seeking its say on the final status of Jerusalem, the Vatican on Tuesday pressed upon Secretary of State Madeleine Albright its insistence that the city's holy sites need international oversight.
But Albright said that the Vatican's option had no takers at last month's failed Camp David talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Palestinians "were not interested in internationalization even though they openly called for an open city," Albright told a Rome news conference before her Vatican talks. "Nobody wanted — I mean, at Camp David certainly the issue of internationalization was not the solution."
Albright met at the Vatican with her counterpart at the Holy See, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran.
Tauran laid out the Vatican's concept of an accord for a "just and lasting peace" in Jerusalem, calling special international statutes safeguarding the holy sites of all three major monotheistic religions there a "necessity."
The Camp David talks deadlocked over Israel's and the Palestinians' rival claims to Jerusalem as a capital. Palestinians said they would accept nothing less than full sovereignty over east Jerusalem, home to all the city's most important religious sites.
The Vatican has a different vision for Jerusalem, long-held and so strongly felt that Pope John Paul II publicly reminded Camp David's powerbrokers of it during the talks.
In February, the Palestinians and the Vatican signed an accord that, among other conditions regarding Palestinian territory, calls for international safeguards of freedom of religion in Jerusalem.
It is not clear if Arafat's insistence at Camp David on full Palestinian sovereignty over east Jerusalem posed a conflict with that accord.
Arafat has a long history with John Paul, who has met with the Palestinian leader a half-dozen times starting in 1982, when Israel still was calling Arafat a terrorist.
John Paul was saying two decades ago that he saw Israel and Palestinians both as having a right to their own homelands.
In 1996, a week after an icebreaking handshake with then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Arafat said in Rome that he saw that city as a model for the ultimate status of Jerusalem. The Vatican is a sovereign state within Italy.
"We want Jerusalem to be a city open to Israelis and Palestinians, exactly like Rome is the capital of the Vatican and of Italy," Arafat said on a trip to lobby for Italian and Vatican support.
"The Jerusalem question could make the peace process fail — or become the symbol of peaceful coexistence among Muslims, Christians and Jews," Arafat said then.