Pope pushes for Mideast peace in meeting with Palestinian leader | News | DW | 16.05.2015
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Pope pushes for Mideast peace in meeting with Palestinian leader

The Palestinian president has met privately with Pope Francis at the Vatican, ahead of a ceremony to canonize two Palestinian nuns. It comes after a treaty in which the Vatican recognized the state of Palestine.

The pope held a private audience with President Mahmoud Abbas for around 20 minutes on Saturday, in talks which the Vatican described as cordial.

Abbas is in Rome to attend a ceremony to canonize two nuns who lived in Ottoman Palestine in the 19th century. They will be the first Palestinian Arabs to gain sainthood.

A large delegation from Palestine will also be present at Sunday's canonization, the first time Muslim officials from the land of Bethlehem will attend such a service.

During talks, Pope Francis presented the president with a medallion described as symbolizing an "angel of peace destroying the evil spirit of war."

Francis said the gift was because Abbas was "an angel of peace," echoing comments he made during his 2014 visit to Israel and the West Bank, when he called both Abbas and then-Israeli President Shimon Peres "men of peace."

Earlier in the week the Vatican revealed it was preparing to sign its first agreement with the state of Palestine, a statement which angered Israel.

Despite having recognized the Palestinian region as a state two years ago, the announcement on Wednesday of a treaty, 15 years in the making, between the two marks an official shift by the Holy See.

Once finalized the agreement will be "submitted to the respective authorities for approval ahead of setting a debate in the near future for the signing," the Vatican said.

In an interview with the Vatican's "Osservatore Romano" newspaper, the Holy See's deputy foreign minister, Antoine Camilleri, said the treaty articulates the Vatican's "hope for a solution to the Palestinian question and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians according to the two-state solution."

He said he hopes the accord may be able to "help the Palestinians in the establishment and recognition of an independent, sovereign and democratic State of Palestine."

Israel responded to news of the treaty with "disappointment," saying it "does not further the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct bilateral negotiations."

"Israel will study the agreement and consider its next step," a foreign ministry official said.

The Palestinian Authority considers the Vatican one of about 130 countries that recognize a Palestinian state, although this number is disputed.

an/sms (AP, AFP , dpa)

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