The Vatican on Friday signed a treaty formally recognizing Palestine as a state. The agreement, negotiated with Palestinian representatives, “is the first legal document negotiated between the Holy See and the Palestinian state and constitutes an official recognition,” according to the Associated Press.

The Vatican, in taking the action, joins major international entities such as the United Nations and the European Parliament in recognizing Palestinian statehood. The U.N. upgraded the Palestinian delegation’s status in 2012 to that of a nonmember observer state, and in 2014 the European Parliament voted in favor of a nonbinding resolution calling for the recognition of Palestinian statehood as part of a two-state solution.

Of the 193 member states of the United Nations, 135 (69.9 percent) had recognized the State of Palestine as of Oct. 30. According to The Guardian, this means that the governments of more than 5.5 billion people, about 80 percent of the world’s population, have granted recognition.

After last spring’s collapse of talks between the United States and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Vatican’s move will no doubt bolster the Palestinian strategy of seeking wider international diplomatic support.

As The New York Times reports:

The accord, the result of 15 years of negotiations, covers “essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in the State of Palestine,” the Vatican said in a statement.

The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said the agreement could be a “stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties.”

He also called for the two countries to take “courageous decisions” so that the “much desired two-state solution may become a reality as soon as possible.”

The Vatican said last month that it would sign the agreement, which Archbishop Gallagher described as offering “a good example of dialogue and cooperation” to other countries in the Middle East, where some Christians have suffered persecution.

Archbishop Gallagher and Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki of the Palestinian Authority signed the treaty at a ceremony in the Vatican.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed its disappointment on Friday, calling the signing of a treaty “a hasty step” that hurt the prospects of peace.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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