Amid Israel’s ongoing concern about the White House-brokered Iran nuclear deal, Pope Francis on Tuesday hosted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Vatican to discuss possible solutions to the Middle East crisis.
After the leaders’ private 40-minute meeting, the Vatican issued a statement regarding the “relevant role Iran is called on to play” in combating terrorism and arms trafficking in the Middle East. The Vatican said that “common spiritual values” between Pope Francis and Rouhani emerged from the meeting.
Rouhani is leading an Iranian delegation on a four-day trip to Italy and France in hopes of reaffirming the Islamic Republic’s economic ties with Western nations. In Rome, top Iranian officials met with more than 100 Italian business executives from infrastructure companies, who agreed to billions of dollars worth of deals with Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Rouhani’s visit, which marks the first meeting between a pope and an Iranian president since 1999, comes shortly after the recent implementation of last summer’s nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. The nuclear deal includes about $150 billion in sanctions relief for Iran, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently admitted that some of that relief will likely fund terrorism. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, including its funding of Hamas and Hezbollah, two groups sworn to Israel’s destruction.