Vatican tells Palestinians it won’t join UN flag bid
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Vatican tells Palestinians it won’t join UN flag bid

Holy See says 'no thanks' after Ramallah submits draft resolution for both non-member observer states to fly flags outside New York headquarters

The row of flags in front of the UN General Assembly at the agency headquarters in New York on September 16, 2010. (CC BY-SA Yerpo, Wikimedia Commons.)
The row of flags in front of the UN General Assembly at the agency headquarters in New York on September 16, 2010. (CC BY-SA Yerpo, Wikimedia Commons.)

The Vatican on Tuesday reportedly requested it be taken off a UN General Assembly Draft resolution prepared by Palestinian diplomats calling for the flags of Palestine and the Holy See to be flown at the world body’s New York headquarters.

The draft resolution sought to adopt a ruling on the flag-raising on behalf of the State of Palestine and the Vatican — both of whom are non-member observer states at the United Nations — in time for the Pope Francis’ official visit to the US next month.

“The Holy See does not intend to co-sponsor a draft resolution that the State of Palestine may eventually present on the matter,” the Vatican said of the initiative in a statement, according to Reuters.

Francis is scheduled to address the General Assembly on September 25, opening a gathering of world leaders to launch a set of development goals aimed at ending both poverty and hunger over the next 15 years.

The Palestinians’ proposal has been placed on the agenda, and would allow the two non-member observer states to display their flags alongside the 193 member states outside the iconic General Assembly building in Manhattan.

The raising of the Palestinian flag is a move likely to irk Israel and the US, who oppose recognizing the Palestinian state on the grounds it undermines efforts to negotiate a peace agreement. That process, however, has largely been at a standstill since the deadly conflict in Gaza a year ago.

Many states have shown support for the Palestinians’ pursuit of statehood, including the Holy See.

In May, the Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine in their first formal, bilateral treaty. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was “disappointed.” During Francis’s 2014 visit to the Holy Land, the Vatican’s official program referred to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as the president of the “state of Palestine.”

In 2012, the Vatican welcomed an overwhelming vote in the General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinians’ status to a UN non-member observer state. The Palestinian delegation promptly unfurled the flag in the chamber.

The pope has not been shy about ambitious diplomacy. He helped bring the United States and Cuba together for their historic reestablishment of diplomatic ties. Last year, he invited the Israeli and Palestinian presidents for a day of peace prayers at the Vatican.

Most countries in Western Europe — with Sweden a notable exception — have held off on recognizing a Palestinian state, but some have hinted that their position could change if peace efforts remain deadlocked. Most countries in Africa, Asia and South America have recognized Palestine.

More than 100 heads of state and government are expected at the gathering, which leads into the annual UN General Assembly of world leaders the following week. US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are scheduled to speak on the first morning.

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