Pope calls Palestine’s Abbas ‘Angel of Peace’

Pope Francis presents President Abbas with medallion during canonisation of two Palestinian nuns in the Vatican

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Pope Francis called visiting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an “angel of peace” during a meeting in the Vatican on Saturday after presenting him with a medallion.

President Abbas in turn presented Pope Francis with the relics of two 19th-century Palestinian nuns, Mariam Bawardi and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, who were being canonised as saints.

Abbas’s comes after the Vatican City officially announced its recognition of the State of Palestine earlier this week.

Palestinians are currently seeking statehood for the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as the proposed capital.

A resolution in the UN Security Council calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state failed to pass in December, following which Palestine moved to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Italy became the latest major European country to vote for a non-binding resolution that encourages the government to recognise Palestine as a state in February, a move that underlines European frustration over stalled Middle East peace negotiations.

A similar resolution was adopted by the British government in October, while Sweden formally announced its recognition of Palestine in the same month, prompting Israel to recall its ambassador from Stockholm.

In December, the Portuguese parliament voted to recognise Palestine but its Foreign Ministry said recognition would be announced only when the time is suitable.

Meanwhile, Belgium is also planning to hold a vote as legislators work on a resolution.

The upper house of parliament in France had also voted to urge the government’s recognition of Palestine in December, a move which was slammed by Israel.

According to the Palestinian Authority, around 135 countries have recognised the state of Palestine including several that are now EU members.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in April last year when the West Bank’s Fatah and Gaza’s Hamas authorities declared a unity government in response to continued illegal settlement building by Israel in occupied areas.

A bloody onslaught on Gaza erupted just a few months later, resulting in the deaths of around 2,200 Palestinians, at least 66 percent of whom were civilians. Meanwhile, 72 Israelis were also killed, mainly soldiers.

The cause for the recognition of Palestine was furthered when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to prevent the establishment of the State of Palestine during his pre-election campaign.

His vow frustrated a number of countries, including Israel’s main ally the US, with President Barack Obama saying Washington may “re-assess” its relationship with Israel after Netanyahu’s words threatened to jeopardise the ongoing peace process for a two-state solution.

TRTWorld and agencies