A new embassy for Palestinians has been opened at the Vatican. The National Catholic Register reports that the move comes after an agreement signed by the Vatican and Palestinian leaders in 2015. The move is partially symbolic, given that there is currently no State of Palestine – although that remains a goal of some Palestinian politicians.
It was possible to open the Embassy because the Vatican is not only the centre of the Roman Catholic Church, it is also a small state in its own right, which means it can agree its own diplomatic arrangements.
Around two per cent of the Palestinian population is Christian – and there are significant Roman Catholic sites within the Palestinian territories – such as Bethlehem.
Israel has discouraged unilateral moves to extend statehood-like arrangements to the Palestinians. Meanwhile Donald Trump's new administration has been unclear on the future path it plans to take on the likelihood of a Palestinian State alongside Israel.
It seems unlikely that any moves towards full statehood will begin in the near future. Even so, speaking about the new embassy, Issa Kassissieh, the Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See, called the move "a significant achievement for the Palestinian people."
The Vatican's relationship is with the Palestinian Legislative Council, based in the West Bank. It is said to have no relationship with Hamas, which runs Gaza.