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Palestinians could raise flag at UN before pope visit

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United Nations: In a move likely to upset Israel’s government, the Palestinians are seeking to raise their flag, along with the Vatican flag, at UN headquarters — just in time for Pope Francis’ visit next month.

Supporters of the idea hope the UN General Assembly will adopt a resolution on the flag-raising shortly before the pope arrives.

They’re betting that the United States or other allies of Israel will not block the plan and risk offending the Holy See on Francis’ first US visit.

The Palestinians’ proposal has been tabled, and a draft of the resolution has been seen by The Associated Press. It would allow non-member observer states — there are only two — to display their flags with the 193 member states.

While the Vatican’s mission to the UN earlier expressed support for the idea, it circulated a letter this week distancing itself from the draft, asking the Palestinian mission to “kindly to remove in its draft resolution any reference to the ‘Holy See’ and any generic reference ‘on behalf of the Observer States.'”

The Holy See’s mission did not comment today.

The United States and Israel oppose recognizing the Palestinian state, arguing that it undermines efforts to negotiate a peace agreement.

That process, however, has largely been at a standstill since the deadly conflict in Gaza a year ago. Israel’s UN mission did not respond to a request for comment.

Many states have shown support for the Palestinians’ pursuit of statehood, including the Holy See.

In May, the Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine in their first formal, bilateral treaty. Israel’s foreign ministry said it was “disappointed.”

During Francis’ 2014 visit to the Holy Land, the Vatican’s official program referred to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the president of the “state of Palestine.”

In 2012, the Vatican welcomed an overwhelming vote in the General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinians’ status to a UN non-member observer state. Their delegation promptly unfurled the flag in the chamber.

The pope has not been shy about ambitious diplomacy. He helped bring the US and Cuba together for their historic reestablishment of diplomatic ties.

Last year, he invited the Israeli and Palestinian presidents for a day of peace prayers at the Vatican.