Netanyahu to meet the Pope and John Kerry in Italy

Netanyahu will travel to Italy next week (Photo: State Department)

Netanyahu will travel to Italy next week (Photo: State Department)

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Pope Francis I in Italy next week, before holding discussions with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Mr Netanyahu will visit Pope Francis in the Vatican next Wednesday, ahead of the pontiff's anticipated trip to Israel in March. This follows President Shimon Peres's recent meeting with the head of the Catholic Church earlier this year.

According to a statement from the prime minister's office, Mr Netanyahu will follow his trip to the Vatican by holding talks with John Kerry in Rome. They will discuss Iran's nuclear programme, as well as the ongoing peace process.

Earlier this year, the Pope suggested he may visit Israel in 2014, to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's visit to Jerusalem in 1964. He said in July: "The government of Israel granted me a unique opportunity to come to Israel."

This would be the second time Pope Francis has been to Israel - though he spent his first trip in 1973 confined to his Jerusalem hotel after the Yom Kippur War broke out.

Last updated: 8:47am, October 17 2013