Vatican Signs Historic Accord With Palestine

Vatican Signs Historic Accord With PalestineVatican Signs Historic Accord With Palestine

The Vatican on Friday signed a historic first accord with Palestine, two years after officially recognizing it as a state.

The accord, a treaty covering the life and activity of the church in Palestine, was the first since the Vatican recognized the Palestinian state in February 2013, AFP reported. The treaty, which took 15 years of negotiations to complete, was agreed in principle last month and angered Israel, which called it "a hasty step that damages the prospects for advancing a peace agreement."

The Vatican's recognition of the state of Palestine followed a November 12 vote in favor of recognition by the UN General Assembly. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said he hoped it would help "recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, freedom and dignity in an independent state of their own, free from the shackles of occupation."

Vatican officials have described it as reflecting the church's desire to see the conflict in the Holy Land resolved by a two-state solution. The Palestinian Authority considers the Vatican one of 136 countries to have recognized Palestine as a state, although the number is disputed and several recognitions by what are now European Union member states date back to the Soviet era.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2012 recognizing Palestine as an observer non-member state. This was welcomed at the time by the Vatican, which has the same observer non-member status at the UN. Last October, Sweden became the first major European country to acknowledge Palestine statehood, a decision that has since led to tense relations between Sweden and Israel. The Vatican is particularly keen to have a greater diplomatic role in the Middle East, from where many Christians have fled because of conflicts in Syria, Iraq and other countries.