Pope to meet Palestinian President at Vatican

Vatican City: Pope Francis will on Saturday receive Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Vatican Radio reported.

The meeting comes after Francis on Monday called for peace talks on a permanent two-state solution to resume between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

“Israelis and Palestinians urgently need peace. The whole Middle East urgently needs peace,” Francis told ambassadors at the Vatican.

He urged “an enduring solution that guarantees the peaceful coexistence of two states within internationally recognised borders.”

The upcoming meeting between Francis and Abbas follows the entry into force of a landmark accord between the Vatican and the Palestinian Authority at the end of December.

Israel attacked the agreement, signed in June 2015, as premature and counter-productive to the Middle East peace process.

The Vatican hailed the accord, which includes provisions to protect the rights of Christians, calling it model for other Arab and Muslim states in their relations with Christian minorities in the Middle East.

The previous month, Francis met Abbas at the Vatican on May 16, 2015 and presented him with a medallion, calling him “an angel of peace”.

The Vatican recognised the Palestinian territories as a sovereign state in February 2013 after a November 2012 vote by the United Nations General Assembly in favour of recognition.

Israel and the Vatican have had diplomatic relations since 1993.