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Vatican signs treaty with ‘State of Palestine’

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The Vatican signed its first treaty with “the State of Palestine” on Friday.

Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher and his Palestinian counterpart, Riad al-Maliki, placed their signatures on the agreement in the Vatican, according to The Associated Press.

The pact affirms that the Vatican legally recognizes Palestine’s existence as an independent state and in exchange will receive authority over the Catholic Church in Palestine.

{mosads}“[It] may in some way be a stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties,” Gallagher said, according to the AP.

“[It is] a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, freedom and dignity in an independent state of their own, free from the shackles of occupation,” al-Maliki added, calling it a “historic agreement.”

The move is likely to anger Israel. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Friday it would study the agreement and its “implications for future cooperation between Israel and the Vatican,” according to the AP.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the accord was lopsided in Palestine’s favor in remarks Friday morning, the report said.

It ignored “the historic rights of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and to the places holy to Judaism in Jerusalem,” he added.

Friday’s treaty marked the Vatican’s first legal recognition of the Palestinian territory as a state.

It previously supported a United Nations General Assembly decision to that effect in 2012 but had never formally confirmed its legal view of Palestine’s status until now, according to the report.

Both the U.S. and Israel oppose unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, wanting any status of a future Palestinian state to be determined in talks between the U.S. and Israel.

Most Western European nations have remained neutral on Palestinian statehood, according to the AP, but some have suggested they will recognize a Palestinian state if there is no further progress in the peace process.

The Vatican’s decision on Friday comes as Pope Francis plans a visit to the United States in September, when he will also address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24.

Francis’ speech will make him the first Pope to speak before lawmakers in both chambers of Congress.

The visit could be awkward for Francis and congressional Republicans, with the pope vocally calling for international action on climate change and on income inequality.

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