Abbas receives warm welcome in Rome

ROME (JTA) – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas received a warm welcome from Pope Benedict XVI during a three-day visit to Rome.

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Also during the visit, which ends Tuesday, Abbas thanked Italy and the Vatican for supporting the Nov. 29 United Nations resolution upgrading Palestine’s status to that of a nonmember state observer.

Abbas met with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Tuesday and with the pope and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Monday.

The Vatican said in a statement that it hoped the U.N. recognition of “Palestine” last month “will encourage the commitment of the international community to finding a fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which may be reached only by resuming negotiations between the Parties, in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both.”

A Palestinian spokesman said that Abbas had thanked Monti and other Italian officials for Italy’s “deep, historical and strong support.”

During the visit, Abbas was contacted by the mayor of Naples informing him of the city’s intention to declare Abbas an honorary citizen.

Italy maintains good relations with both the Arab world and Israel. Last week saw the formal launch in Rome of the Italy-Israel Foundation, which will link the public and private sectors in financing cultural and artistic programs and events. During the launch, which took place at the Italian foreign ministry, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi called the initiative “significant” and an “antidote” to fanaticism at a time of “tensions and uncertainty” in the Mediterranean.

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