VATICAN CITY, June 26 (UPI) -- The Vatican formally recognized Palestine as a state Friday, with the signing of a treaty, the product of 15 years of negotiations.
The agreement involves "essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in the State of Palestine," a Vatican statement said.
The acknowledgement of Palestine's identity, Vatican ambassador Archbishop Paul Gallagher said, is meant to be a "stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties." He added he hoped the "much desired two-state solution may become a reality as soon as possible."
Gallagher and Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Raid al-Malki signed the treaty in a ceremony at the Vatican, which was announced in May.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed its disappointment at the diplomatic maneuver, calling it a "hasty step" which "distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations" with Israel over a two-state solution to their conflict.
Since 2012 the United Nations has considered Palestine a "non-member observer state."