The Vatican has officially recognized the state of Palestine in a new treaty.
According to the treaty, which was finalized on Wednesday, the Holy See switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to the state of Palestine.
On November 29, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state” despite strong opposition from Israel and the US.
The Vatican welcomed the 193-member assembly’s decision at the time. However, the recent treaty, which still needs to be signed, constitutes an official recognition of the Palestinian state by the Vatican.
“Yes, it’s a recognition that the state exists,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
The move comes as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to meet with Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, at the Vatican on May 16.
On December 2 last year, French lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion to recognize Palestine as an independent state. The motion, urging the government to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, was backed by a majority of 339 lawmakers while 151 members voted against.
On November 18, 2014, Spanish lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution on recognizing a Palestinian state. Britain and Ireland also passed similar non-binding motions.
Sweden went a step further On October 30, 2014, and officially recognized the state of Palestine, drawing stringent criticism from Israel and the United States.
Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank including East al-Quds (Jerusalem), and the Gaza Strip and are demanding that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel, however, has refused to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to discuss the issue of al-Quds.