The Israeli and Palestinian presidents have begun an unprecedented meeting with Pope Francis to pray together in the hope that the gesture will relaunch the peace talks.

Francis will lead prayers on Sunday at the Vatican with Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres in a gesture aimed at fostering dialogue.

"This prayer meeting will not be for mediation or to find solutions. We are just meeting up to pray. Then everyone goes home," Francis said after issuing the invitations during a pilgrimage to the Middle East last month.

Francis said it would be "crazy" to expect any Vatican mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Despite insisting that he had no wish to meddle in politics, Francis, on his second day of a visit to the Holy Land, called for Palestinians and Israelis to work together, saying a breakdown in talks was "unacceptable".

The prayers from the world's three main monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, will focus on three themes: "creation", "invocation for forgiveness" and "invocation for peace".

Following the prayers, Francis, Abbas and Peres will make their invocation for peace and the three will then plant an olive tree.

The meeting is taking place more than a month after Israel suspended US-brokered talks with the Palestinians after the announcement that Hamas and Fatah would create a new consensus government.

Israel had also approved tens of thousands of new settler homes in the occupied West Bank during the talks.

Source: Agencies