Pope Benedict XVI told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Monday that he hopes the Palestinians’ upgrade to nonmember observer state at the UN will hasten the international community into finding a solution to the Palestinian conflict with Israel.
The Palestinian leader is visiting Europe to thank countries that voted for the upgrade. Abbas met with the Pope to praise him for supporting the Palestinians’ recent bid. All European Union countries except for the Czech Republic either supported the motion or abstained from the vote.
The Holy See is the only other entity to hold the status of nonmember observer state at the UN.
The Vatican had warmly welcomed the vote, and a Vatican statement said that “it is hoped that this initiative will encourage the commitment of the international community to finding a fair and lasting solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Abbas chatted privately with Pope Benedict for 30 minutes and then met with the Vatican’s top diplomats. Abbas gave Benedict a mosaic of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City — with an inscription saying it was presented by the “President of the state of Palestine.”
The resolution upgrading the Palestinians’ status was approved by more than a two-thirds majority of the 193-member UN General Assembly, in a vote of 138-9, with 41 abstentions. The bid was met with widespread enthusiasm in the West Bank and Gaza, but dismay from Israeli and US leaders. The November 29 date of the motion came 65 years after the UN’s decision to divide British Mandate Palestine into two states, an Arab one and a Jewish one.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.