LONDON: The UK’s Prince of Wales on Friday said it is his “dearest wish” that the Palestinian people receive “freedom, justice and equality.”
Prince Charles, speaking in the city of Bethlehem during a historic first trip to the occupied Palestinian territories, added that he will “pray for a just and lasting peace” in the Middle East.
He said he had been “struck by the energy, warmth and remarkable generosity of the Palestinian people.”
His words of hope for Palestinians come at a time when US President Donald Trump is expected to unveil his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which is heavily tipped to favor Israel.
“It breaks my heart, therefore, that we should continue to see so much suffering and division,” Prince Charles said.
“No-one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship and the situation you face, and I can only join you, and all communities, in your prayers for a just and lasting peace,” he added.
“We must pursue this cause with faith and determination, striving to heal the wounds which have caused such pain.”
The prince visited the Mosque of Omar, named after the caliph who conquered Jerusalem in 637 AD but ensured that Christians would be allowed to continue to worship. Charles signed the visitor book in English and in Arabic.
He also toured the Church of the Nativity, built on the site reported to be the birthplace of Jesus.
Having visited both places of worship, Prince Charles said Bethlehem encapsulates the “vital co-existence between Christians and Muslims.”
The city’s governor said after the prince’s visit: “The strongest message from Bethlehem is that we are proud as Palestinians, Muslims and Christians, to live here together.”
He added that the prince was “very interested” in every detail of the mosque and “asked about the poor people, how we can help them.”
Prince Charles also met with President Mahmoud Abbas, who thanked the UK for its help in building state institutions, and its assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Abbas also thanked the UK for accepting the two-state solution.
“Our hope in the near future is that Britain recognizes the State of Palestine, because we’ve heard that the British Parliament recommended this to the government. So we hope that this will happen,” he said.