Abbas to meet Pope ahead of Palestinian embassy opening in Vatican City
ALBERTO PIZZOLI (AFP/File)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to meet with Vatican City’s Pope Francis on Saturday, according to Italian media, to open a Palestinian embassy in the theocratic micro-state -- the first Palestinian embassy to be established in a European Union member nation.
During the meeting they also plan to discuss several key issues regarding the Palestinians.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki confirmed that Abbas will primarily be raising issue with incoming President-elect Donald Trump, who is set to take office next week, and his proposed plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Abbas has urged that the decision would be dangerous and derail the peace-making process in the region.
Palestinians fear the move would consolidate Israeli control over the ancient city, making it difficult to establish east Jerusalem as a capital for a future Palestinian state, and hindering the possibility of a two-state solution.
Maliki added that upon meeting with the Pope, the Palestinian Authority hopes the position the Vatican takes on the matter will be influential, sending out a strong message to the President-elect.
Pope Francis has commented on the Israeli-Palestinian issue before, urging for peace and to start “a new page” in his Christmas address.
"May Israelis and Palestinians have the courage and the determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony,” he stated in the 2016 address.
The visit comes as part of Abbas’ efforts to push for more recognition for the Palestinians and to move closer towards realizing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In order to do so, Abbas believes that international support is critical.
The establishment of a Palestinian embassy in Vatican city will be significant in garnering the international recognition that Abbas needs.
In October 2014, an embassy was opened in Stockholm, Sweden as the first in western Europe. However, the Vatican will be the first of the nations a part of the European Union.
Vatican City recognized Palestine as a state two years ago. In May 2015, relations between the Holy See and Palestine were upgraded upon the signing of an accord that expected to lead the embassy’s establishment in the sovereign nation.
There was backlash from Israel over the accord which further strained relations between the Jewish state and Francis who described Abbas as an "angel of peace" during their meeting.
The PA leader has been riding political momentum towards recognizing a Palestinian state in the international sphere in light of recent events the past few months, including the condemnation of Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem by both Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama as well as the resolution of the UN Security Council that also ruled against the settlements.
While in the region, Abbas will also meet with the Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Sunday and the French President Francois Holland on Monday.
An international conference on the Middle East will be held in Paris on Sunday, but neither Israeli nor Palestinian delegations will participate.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to be present as well as representatives from seventy-two other countries.
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How can the Pope deal with Abbas (the PA) in such a convivial way when Abbas is still following the ways of Arafat. This is the forcing out of Christians within the PA area to make it a Muslim only area. The Christian population within the PA area has shrunk drastically over the last 20 years. No Christian can get a divorce in the PA area unless they first become Muslim. We rarely hear about the hard life Christians have and which forces them to go to Israel.
hhahah Thats crazy talk, Leo... you clearly don't know any palestinian christians from the west bank