Britain’s Prince Charles said on Friday that he was heartbroken to witness the “suffering” and “hardship” endured by the Palestinians.
The remarks by the heir to the British throne, who was visiting the West Bank town of Bethlehem, were described by Britain’s Sky News TV as constituting “the biggest show of support that a member of the Royal family ever has [expressed] for the Palestinians.”
Visiting the town revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus, Charles said: “It breaks my heart therefore that we should continue to see so much suffering and division. No one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship, and the situation you face.”
Speaking at Casa Nova, a Franciscan pilgrim house near the Church of the Nativity, Charles went on: “And I can only join you, and all communities, in your prayers for a just and lasting peace. We must pursue this cause with faith and determination, striving to heal the wounds which have caused such pain.”
He added: “It is my dearest wish that the future will bring freedom, justice and equality to all Palestinians, enabling you to thrive and to prosper.”
Later, after he held talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the official PA news agency WAFA said Abbas told the prince he was grateful to the UK “for accepting the two-state solution and rejecting the US-led ‘deal of the century’.”
US President Donald Trump said Thursday he would unveil his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan within days. The PA has preemptively rejected it. The UK has not taken an official position on it.
Sky quoted officials representing the prince as saying he was trying to remain “neutral” in the course of his trip — his first official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
During his visit to Bethlehem, the prince visited the Church of the Nativity, where he attended an unprecedented Ecumenical Service marking what his official residence, Clarence House, tweeted was the “first time that the three Christian churches have collectively held a service to celebrate the contribution of Christian communities across the Holy Land and wider Middle East.”
He also met with local storekeepers and iconographers, visited the Mosque of Omar, held a reception at which he met with “guests including people who work with Palestinian refugees and Palestinian Christians,” Clarence House said.
This is the first time that the three Christian churches have collectively held a service to celebrate the contribution of Christian communities across the Holy Land and wider Middle East. pic.twitter.com/FyC0f3bW3o
— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) January 24, 2020
According to WAFA, Abbas, hosting the prince later in the day, thanked the UK “for its assistance to the Palestinian people in building state institutions, as well as its assistance to the UNRWA, and for accepting the two-state solution and rejecting the US-led “deal of the century”.
“Our hope in the near future,” WAFA further quoted Abbas saying, “is that Britain recognizes the State of Palestine, because we’ve heard that the British Parliament recommended this to the government. So we hope that this will happen.”
It said Prince Charles praised “the historical Palestinian-British relations and said he looks forward to achieving just peace in the region.”
Earlier Friday, Charles visited the tomb of his grandmother, who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust and is interred at the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City.
On Thursday, the prince met Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, toured the Israel Museum including the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, met Holocaust survivors, and addressed the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem.