Palestinian officials have welcomed a recent decision by the Vatican to officially recognize Palestine as an independent state in a new treaty.
Palestinians are “extremely encouraged” by the agreement, said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
She described the move by the Vatican as a “very positive development, not just politically but in moral terms, human terms, in legal terms.”
The treaty, which is the first legal document to be negotiated between the Vatican and the Palestinians, was finalized on May 13 and is expected to be signed in the near future.
The Vatican’s Under Secretary for Relations with States and Holy See deputy Foreign Minister Antoine Camilleri said the treaty “aims to enhance the life and activities of the Catholic Church and its recognition at the judicial level.”
“Both Parties agreed that the work of the Commission on the text of the agreement has been concluded, and that the agreement will be submitted to the respective authorities for approval ahead of setting a date in the near future for the signing,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has expressed disappointment over the Vatican’s decision, saying the move would not help negotiations between the two sides.
The ministry added that Tel Aviv would review the agreement and “consider its steps accordingly.”
This comes as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to visit the Vatican over the weekend.
The Vatican had already recognized a decision by the United Nations General Assembly back in 2012 to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state.
The Vatican has been referring to Palestine as a “State” since 2014.
Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, including East al-Quds (Jerusalem), and the Gaza Strip and are demanding that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel, however, has refused to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to discuss the issue of al-Quds.
Last October, Sweden officially recognized the state of Palestine, in a controversial move which triggered outrage from Israel and the United States.
Months later, Spanish and French lawmakers voted to recognize Palestine as an independent state.
A total of 135 countries recognize Palestine as an independent state.