Pope: Abandon "futile" military solution in Syria
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis urged the Group of 20 leaders on Thursday to abandon the "futile pursuit" of a military solution in Syria as the Vatican laid out its case for a negotiated settlement that guarantees rights for all Syrians, including minority Christians.
In a letter to the G-20 host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Francis lamented that "one-sided interests" had prevailed in Syria, preventing a diplomatic end to the conflict and allowing the continued "senseless massacre" of innocents.
"To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution," the Pope wrote as the G-20 meeting got under way in St Petersburg.
Pope Francis has ratcheted up his call for peace in Syria amid threatened US-led military strikes following an August 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus. But he has also been careful not to lay blame on any one side, exhorting world leaders instead to focus on the plight of Syrian civilians and the need to end the violence.
Pope Francis will host a peace vigil in St Peter's Square on Saturday, a test of whether his immense popular appeal will translate into popular support for his peace message. It is the first time any such peace rally has been held at the Vatican, though Holy See officials have stressed it's a religious event, not a political protest.