(ANSA) - Vatican City, October 17 - Discussions around the necessity of Middle East peace held Thursday between Pope Francis and the Palestinian president were capped off with a very special gift: a pen.
And not just any pen - this instrument could someday be used to sign a peace deal with Israel, Mahmoud Abbas said after his conversation in the Vatican with Francis.
"I hope that I (will) sign with this (pen) a peace treaty with Israel," Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), said after a 30-minute meeting with the pope, who presented the decorative pen, shaped like the pillars on the famous Baldachin in St. Peter's Basilica.
The PNA governs the West Bank while Hamas controls the Gaza Strip.
Peace in the troubled region was top of the agenda for Francis and Abbas who spoke of their hopes for a resumption of peace talks between the PNA and Israel.
Further negotiations between the two sides could lead to a "courageous decisions in favour of peace," according to a statement issued after the leaders' meeting.
They also spoke of their hopes for "reconciliation" in Syria, according to the statement, which described the conversation as "cordial".
And they called for a "just and lasting solution to be found to the conflict, an increasingly necessary and urgent objective…(and) in this respect, hope was expressed that the parties to the conflict will make courageous and determined decisions in order to promote peace, with the support of the international community".
The statement said they also discussed activities by the Catholic Church in the region, and later, Abbas said that he had invited the Pope Francis to visit. The cordial meeting and Abbas's statement about the using the pen for a peace pact is "a good omen," Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said later.
Pope Francis has frequently called for peace among warring countries, including in the Middle East.
In his Easter message earlier this year, the pope called for peace around the world and singled out the troubled Middle East region.
He specifically prayed for: "Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long". After meeting the pope, Abbas met with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states for the Vatican.