Vatican recognised Palestine as a state in the Holy See-Palestine Joint Statement released on 13 May 2015.
The Joint Statement titled Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine was released after the Plenary Session held in Vatican on a Comprehensive Agreement following on the Basic Agreement signed on 15 February 2000. The Basic Agreement of 2000 deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.
The Plenary Session was chaired by Mgr Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, and by Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs of the State of Palestine.
Why the recognition is significant?
Although the Vatican had been officially referring to Palestine as a state following the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land in 2014 but the joint statement is the first legal document to be negotiated between the two.
Also, the document changes its diplomatic recognition from the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to the state of Palestine. The official relation between the Holy See and PLO was established on 26 October 1994.
The recognition by Vatican came as Israel government published its official guidelines, which promised to advance the peace process and make an effort to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians but did not use the term Palestinian state.
Other nations to recognise Palestine as State
The Vatican has functionally dealt with Palestine as State since the 2012 United Nations vote wherein Palestine was given a non-member, observer-state status. 135 member-nations of UN recognized Palestine as a State.
In October 2014, Sweden recognised Palestine and in recent months the British, French, Spanish and Irish Parliaments have passed resolutions urging their governments to follow the suit.
The present move by the Vatican is a welcome development and will help Palestine in its international effort to get the recognition as a State. This is not only politically significant but also morally significant because the Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide, including Palestinians.
Further, the endorsement of statehood by the Vatican counters images of Palestinians as terrorists and is recognition of the Palestinian character that has a clear message for coexistence and peace.
However, the move has been criticized by Israel and the US by terming it as disappointing. According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the recognition would “not advance the peace process” and “distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations.”
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