Vatican Recognizes Palestine; Israel 'Disappointed'
Official diplomatic recognition days ahead of Abbas visit
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 13, 2015 10:44 AM CDT
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Pope Francis, right, sit inside a van on the way to a Vatican garden for an evening of peace prayers, at the Vatican, June 8, 2014.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca, Pool)
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(Newser) – The Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine in a new treaty finalized today, immediately sparking Israeli ire and accusations that the move hurt peace prospects. The treaty, which concerns the activities of the Catholic Church in Palestinian territory, makes clear that the Holy See has switched its diplomatic recognition from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the state of Palestine. The Vatican had welcomed the decision by the UN General Assembly in 2012 to recognize a Palestinian state. But the treaty is the first legal document negotiated between the Holy See and the Palestinian state. "Yes, it's a recognition that the state exists," said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

The Israeli foreign ministry said it was "disappointed" by the development. "This move does not promote the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations," the ministry said in a text message. "Israel will study the agreement and will consider its steps accordingly." The treaty was finalized days before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits Pope Francis at the Vatican. Abbas is heading to Rome to attend Francis' canonization Sunday of two new saints from the Holy Land. The Vatican has been referring unofficially to the state of Palestine for at least a year. The recognition is not the only diplomatic brouhaha for Francis lately.