An unprecedented handshake has taken place between Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad and Israel’s President Moshe Katsav at the funeral for Pope John Paul II.
They shook hands as the funeral began, and Bashar approached Katsav again after the funeral to exchange words and shake again.
Such public communication has never happened before, bwteen the two countries which are still at war.
On many occasions over the past two years Bashar has offered peace talks with Israel, which have been flatly rejected by Ariel Sharon and George Bush. But Katsav, who was born in Iran, has always urged Sharon to keep an open mind.
There is speculation that the brief meeting may open the path to negotiations, which last collapsed five years ago.
It seems that even in death the Pope is brining cultures together. John Paul II was the first Pope to ever enter a Mosque – he visited the Umayad Mosque in the heart of Damascus’s Old City on the 2000th birthday of Jesus. The Mosque has a shrine to John the Baptist.