The Vatican City has officially announced its recognition of the State of Palestine after agreeing to sign a new treaty on Wednesday.
The Holy See, which had already welcomed a UN General Assembly resolution in 2012 to recognise Palestine, is set to sign a treaty with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who will visit Pope Francis on Saturday.
President Abbas will visit the Vatican on the same day two Palestinians will be canonised as saints.
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.