Vatican hopes Palestinian UN upgrade spurs solution to Arab-Israeli conflict

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Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said the Vatican hopes the recent de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations would spur the international community to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"It is hoped that (the resolution) 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 Vatican statement said.

The pope held talks with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for about 25 minutes in the Apostolic Palace,

Abbas is on a tour of Europe to thank countries which supported the Nov. 29 resolution. The 193-nation General Assembly overwhelmingly approved upgrading the Palestinian Authority's observer status at the United Nations from "entity" to "non-member state," the same status as the Vatican.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict also renewed a call for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, something Israel rejects.

Israel captured East Jerusalem - along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip - in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Jewish state now regards the city as its "united and eternal" capital.

But, Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza and agree with the Vatican that the city needs international guarantees.

The Vatican said the pope and Abbas also discussed the "situation in the region, troubled by numerous conflicts," which was seen as a clear reference to the civil war in Syria.

Abbas later met Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who expressed the Italian government's support for the construction of a Palestinian state, his office said in a statement.

Abbas will also meet Pier Luigi Bersani, the head of the Democratic Party, which is widely expected to win national elections early next year.

Italy's centre-left has traditionally supported Palestinians while the centre-right has been closer to Israel.