Abbas Thanks Pope for Supporting Palestinian UN Bid

PA president meets with Pope Benedict XVI; the Vatican says it hopes UN Palestinian vote will bring peace.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Pope Benedict XVI on Monday to thank him for supporting the recent UN resolution recognizing a Palestinian state.

Abbas chatted privately with Benedict for 25 minutes Monday and then met with the Vatican's top diplomats. Abbas gave Benedict a mosaic of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, with the inscription saying it was presented by the "President of the state of Palestine."

The Vatican said the discussions referred to the November 29 UN vote upgrading the Palestinians to the same status as the Holy See: non-member state observer.
The Vatican had warmly welcomed the vote, and a Vatican statement said "it is hoped that this initiative will encourage the commitment of the international community to finding a fair and lasting solution" to the conflict.

Pope Benedict told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday that the Vatican hoped the recent de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations would spur the international community to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Abbas, who is on a tour of Europe to thank countries that supported the November 29 resolution by the U.N. General Assembly recognizing Palestine, held private talks with the Pope for about 25 minutes in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace and then met with the Vatican's top diplomats. Abbas gave Benedict a mosaic of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, with the inscription saying it was presented by the "President of the state of Palestine."

The Vatican said the discussions referred to the November 29 UN vote upgrading the Palestinians to the same status as the Holy See: non-member state observer.
The Vatican had warmly welcomed the vote, and a Vatican statement said "it is hoped that this initiative will encourage the commitment of the international community to finding a fair and lasting solution" to the conflict.

The 193-nation General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's observer status at the United Nations from "entity" to "non-member state," the same status as the Vatican.

The Vatican welcomed the resolution, which amounted to an implicit recognition of a Palestinian state. But at the time the Holy See also renewed its call for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, something which Israel rejects.

The Vatican said the pope and Abbas also discussed the "situation in the region, troubled by numerous conflicts," which was seen as a clear reference to the civil war in Syria.

Abbas was also meeting Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Pier Luigi Bersani, the head of the Democratic Party, which is widely expected to win national elections early next year.

Italy's center-left has traditionally supported Palestinians while the centre-right has been closer to Israel.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (L) is greeted by Pope Benedict XVI during a private audience on December 17, 2012 at the pontif's library at the Vatican.Credit: AFP

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