Italian President Sergio Mattarella today expressed his appreciation for the link between his country and Palestine during his first visit to the occupied Palestinian territory.
In a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Mattarella called for an appropriate environment for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and for moves to be made by the international community to foster such efforts.
Mattarella mentioned Italy-funded projects in the occupied Palestinian territory, notably the restoration of an ancient mosaic in the West Bank city of Jericho, which he visited with Abbas this afternoon.
At the same press conference, Abbas said that “the key to peace in the region is ending the Israeli occupation and the historic oppression being practiced on our people so both the states of Palestine and Israel can live in security, stability as good neighbours.”
Abbas reiterated his support of a French-sponsored peace conference set to take place by the end of the year.
He defended the recent UNESCO resolution condemning Israeli policies in occupied East Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The international organisation, he said, was seeking to protect global human heritage and “denounce Israeli violations and attempts to alter the character and the identity of East Jerusalem.”
“The recent Israeli claims in an attempt to mix up religion and heritage are untrue and inappropriate,” the Palestinian president added, asserting that he respected Judaism and maintaining that Jerusalem should be open to followers of all three monotheistic religions.
Abbas also offered condolences to the Italian people over the destructive earthquake which hit Italy recently.
In 2012, Italy voted to give the state of Palestine non-member observer status at the United Nations.