The Vatican signed on Friday a historic treaty with Palestine two years after recognising it as a state, drawing swift criticism from Israel.
The treaty, finalised in Rome, concerns “aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.”
Israel immediately criticised the decision of the Vatican expressing “disappointment.”
“Such a development does not further the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct bilateral negotiation,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said in a statement.
The treaty comes two years after the Vatican welcomed the UN resolution which recognised Palestine as an official state.
Sweden went even further, recognising Palestine as a state in October 2014.
Pope Francis has previously used the term “State of Palestine” on several occasions.
The Vatican’s Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher said he hoped the treaty could bring “a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties.”
Vatican recognition could push European governments and parliaments to pressure Israel over a two-state solution, analysts and experts said.
A hundred and thirty-five members of the UN’s 193 members recognise Palestine, while the European Union as a whole does not recognise Palestine.
Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to visit Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday.
The Vatican and Palestine have had diplomatic relations since 1994.