Pope Francis talks to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a private audience in the pontiff library at the Vatican,...

Vatican finalizes treaty recognizing Palestinian statehood

The Vatican announced today that it has finalized, but not signed, a treaty that would recognize Palestine as a state. While the Vatican has supported the U.N. General Assembly’s decision to recognize Palestine as a nonmember observer state of the U.N. since 2012, the treaty marks the first official document between the Holy See and Palestinian officials, according to the Associated Press.

The Israeli foreign ministry has said it is “disappointed” with the decision.

“This move does not promote the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations,” the ministry said in a text message received by the Associated Press. “Israel will study the agreement and will consider its steps accordingly.”

According to the New York Times, the Vatican has religious interests in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories that contain Christian holy sites. The move “lends a powerful signal of moral authority and legitimacy” to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

The treaty, which has been in works for about a year, covered the Vatican’s interests in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, including the churches and “other cultural and diplomatic matters.”

The Vatican has informally referred to Palestine as a state for the past year, and Pope Francis has “long signaled” a hope for a Palestinian state.