Pope Francis to meet Palestinian president ahead of Paris peace talks

Pope Francis described Mahmoud Abbas as 'angel of peace' during previous meeting

Gabriel Samuels
Thursday 12 January 2017 18:53
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Pope Francis talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during a private audience at the Vatican City in 2015
Pope Francis talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during a private audience at the Vatican City in 2015

The Pope is preparing to host the Palestinian president at the Vatican for the third time, two years on from the president’s last visit.

Pope Francis will welcome Mahmoud Abbas to Rome for talks shortly before the start of an international conference in Paris aimed at finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is not currently known what they will discuss; Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano will also meet with the president on the same day.

The pontiff has met President Abbas on two previous occasions: once during a trip to the Holy Land in 2014, and once during the Palestinian leader’s only other Vatican visit the following year.

It is believed a Palestinian embassy will be established in the Vatican at some point this year. An accord was signed two years ago in which the Pope and clergy officially recognised the Palestinian state.

Tensions between the Vatican and Israel have been high since the signing of the accord, and suffered further strain when Pope Francis described Mr Abbas as an “angel of peace” during a previous meeting.

Last week, President Abbas said the Palestinians would be willing to fully resume peace talks with Israel if it stopped building settlements.

Meanwhile Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the upcoming Paris talks as "a fraud, a Palestinian fraud supported by France, the aim of which is to adopt additional anti-Israeli positions". His government refused to take any part in the discussions.

Additional reporting by agencies

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