ROME (EJP) --- Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Rome Monday to express his gratitude for Italy’s surprise backing of its successful bid for non-member observer status at last month’s UN General Assembly. At a meeting with Italian Premier Mario Monti, the European leader called on Abbas to “immediately suspend the quest for Palestinian membership of any other UN specialised agencies, and undertake not to resort to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court or retroactively use the newly acquired status (to this end)”.
Reiterating his country’s support of Palestinian statehood, despite its historic close ties with Israel, however, he “agreed on the crucial importance of the UN General Assembly vote...for an early resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process”.
In a statement released by the Italian foreign ministry following November’s shock vote, the government insisted the shock decision formed “an integral part of the Italian government’s aim to revive the peace process with the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, that can live side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition”.
Reiterating Prime Minister Mario Monti’s “excellent relationship” with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, which has seen him appearing to echo the stance of his predecessor, pro-Israel Silvio Berlusconi, in visiting Israel twice in the last month alone, the official comment claimed Monti had contacted both Netanyahu and “moderate leader” Abbas in advance of the vote to express Italy’s position, adding that it was a strike “against violence and in favour of dialogue as the only way to a lasting solution to the conflict”.
According to an official statement by Monti’s office following the meeting of the two leaders, the allies “reviewed the main international issues, starting with the recovery prospects of the Middle East Peace Process”, as the Italian PM “reiterated the importance of rapidly resuming negotiations without preconditions and on a timely basis with clear parameters”.
In light of a series of perceived unilateral action on both sides, with the Israeli government’s announcement of plans to build a further 3,000 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem, alongside withholding tax levies owed to the PA to pay its debt to Israeli companies, as well as a call Sunday by Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad for an absolute economic boycott of Israeli produce, the leaders concluded that the “Israeli and Palestinian negotiating process should promote actions to restore a climate of trust necessary for the resumption of negotiations and, at the same time, must refrain from actions which to affect the credibility of the process”.
“A just, comprehensive, lasting peace in the Middle East, which is the primary objective of the international community and it is in everyone's interests in the region,” Monti further cautioned.
Reiterating his support for Israel’s right to security, the official comment invoked the leaders’ condemnation of “recent public speeches and statements by certain political leaders in the region”, more specifically targeting Hamas’ widely-condemned denial of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, by adding “President Morsi made explicit reference to any speech that denies Israel’s right to exist, as well as its legitimacy”.
Elsewhere on his official visit to Italy, Abbas also travelled to the Vatican to meet with the Pope alongside some of the Vatican’s leading diplomats, to thank them for their likewise support of the PA bid for statehood, which granted the Palestinians the same recognition at the UN as the Vatican itself commands.
A Vatican statement issued in the aftermath of the unequivocal UNGA vote said it “hoped that this initiative will encourage the commitment of the international community to finding a fair and lasting solution” to the enduring conflict.
Presenting the Pope with a mosaic of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to commemorate their meeting, the model held a subscription stating it had been presented by the "President of the state of Palestine”.
The Vatican confirmed following the meeting between the Pope and the PA President that the two had discussed the "situation in the region, troubled by numerous conflicts”.