At a reception for the students at Greek minority schools in Istanbul who sang Christmas carols for him, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos expressed the wish that 2018 will be a year of peace for Palestine, Syria, and the entire Middle East.

The remarks came straight on the heels of the decision of the US to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In an indirect but clear reference to the recent US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Vartholomeos cited the drama of refugees and of the people of Palestine, noting that, ‘’There are so many problems from which the people of the Middle East suffer, that it was unnecessary to add new ones recently.’’

Vartholomeos once again supported the status quo in Jerusalem, which he said, ‘’has been overturned by recent decisions’’, a thinly veiled criticism of US President Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Replying to the Christmas wishes of Paletinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Vartholomeos said that he wished the Palestinian leader that, ‘’his people, who suffered so much over the previous years and was treated so unjustly, with bloody conflict, will experience a new year with peace, at long last, and serenity.’’