Vatican 'won't co-sponsor UN Palestinian flag resolution

Vatican 'won't co-sponsor UN Palestinian flag resolution
The Vatican has asked Palestinian UN mission to remove references to the Holy See from a draft resolution calling for flags of Palestine and Vatican to fly at UN headquarters.
3 min read
26 August, 2015
Palestinians want to raise their flag at UN headquarters in New York [AFP]
The Palestinians were preparing to raise their flag at UN headquarters in New York along with the Vatican's - just in time for Pope Francis' visit to the city in September.

But a note from the Vatican circulated among some UN members and was seen by Reuters in which the Vatican made clear that while it did not object to the Palestinians proposing a resolution to fly their own flag, the Holy See had no plans to join the initiative.

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 US or other allies of Israel will not block the plan and risk offending the Holy See on his first US visit.

The Palestinians' proposal has been tabled, and a draft of the resolution is set to be made public on Wednesday. It would allow non-member observer states - there are only two - to display their flags with the 193 member states.

The US opposes recognising Palestine as a 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.

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

In May, the Vatican officially recognised 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.

Most countries in Western Europe have held off on recognizing a Palestinian state, but some have hinted that their position could change if peace efforts remain deadlocked. Most countries in Africa, Asia and South America have recognised Palestine.

Francis is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Sept. 25, opening a gathering of world leaders to launch a set of development goals aimed at ending both poverty and hunger over the next 15 years.

More than 100 heads of state and government are expected at the gathering, which leads into the annual UN General Assembly of world leaders the following week. President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are scheduled to speak on the first morning.