Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will head into a meeting with Pope Francis as he rallies international support ahead of this weekend’s Paris peace summit.
Among other things, Abbas is expected to raise with Francis the Palestinian concern about a possible move of the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Palestinians strongly oppose the move, saying it would kill any hopes for negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and rile the region by undercutting Muslim and Christian claims to the holy city.
The Vatican has long sought an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem that safeguards its sacred character. It was unclear if the Vatican would want to wade into the issue by mentioning Jerusalem in its post-audience communique.
After the papal meeting on Saturday, Abbas will open an embassy of his own: The Palestinian embassy to the Holy See, fruit of recent accords in which the Vatican formally recognised the “Palestinian state”.
On Sunday, France is hosting more than 70 countries at a Mideast peace summit that marks the final chance for the Obama administration to lay out its positions for the region. No tangible progress is expected.
US President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t yet laid out a clear policy for the region, but has signalled he will be more sympathetic to Israel’s hard-line right than previous administrations. He has also vowed to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Abbas has written to Trump warning of the risks of such a move and asked him to reconsider, while also flagging the concern to Arab and other world leaders, said the Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad Malki.
“The president will raise this issue with the Pope on Saturday in the Vatican,” he told The Associated Press.