Video report by ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship
The Prince of Wales has sympathised with the Palestinian people speaking of the “hardships” they face and saying he wished them “freedom, justice and equality” in the future.
Charles’s words of support – spoken during his first visit to the Palestinian Occupied Territories – came as US President Donald Trump was expected to unveil his long-awaited Middle East peace plan.
But the initiative, intended to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is thought to be an unfavourable one for Palestinians, with the Israelis reportedly set to receive territory gains and other concessions.
Amnesty International UK praised the prince’s comments, saying he had offered “genuine sympathy and solidarity with Palestinians” over what it said were their years of suffering.
Charles began his historic first visit to the West Bank with a gesture of unity – walking through Bethlehem with Muslim and Christian leaders.
He later addressed clerics from across a range of denominations, describing how he had worked to bring people of different faiths together.
Speaking at a reception in Bethlehem celebrating the ties between British and Palestinian people, the prince said: “Elsewhere in the world too, I have endeavoured to build bridges between different religions so that we might learn from each other and be stronger together as a result.
“It breaks my heart therefore that we should continue to see so much suffering and division.
“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. We must pursue this cause with faith and determination, striving to heal the wounds which have caused such pain.
“It is my dearest wish that the future will bring freedom, justice and equality to all Palestinians, enabling you to thrive and to prosper."
The prince had been invited to the territories by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and when they sat down for talks at his official residence in Bethlehem he praised Charles for his support.
Speaking though an interpreter Mr Abbas thanked the prince for supporting the “case of Palestine” and said: “We hope in the near future Britain is going to recognise the state of Palestine.”
Charles made his speech at Casa Nova, a Franciscan pilgrim house close to the Church of the Nativity, where he spoke with church leaders and health and education officials.
Palestinian health minister Dr Mai Kaileh was the senior political representative at the event.
She told the prince of her hope that “history will change” and Palestinians will be “given our right as Palestinian people with an independent state and Jerusalem as our capital”.
Charles also stopped to chat with a group of Palestinian refugees, among them Dr Abdelfattah Abu Srour, director of the Al Rowwad Centre in Aida refugee camp.
He told the royal visitor that he works with children as young as eight who, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, have responded “that they want to die because nobody cares”.
He said the prince replied: “It is painful to hear that.”
Charles also spoke with another refugee, Rua Ahmad Abuoda, a 20-year-old engineering student and member of a women’s empowerment group which works with mothers and disabled children in the Aida and Al-Azzeh refugee camps.
She said: “I spoke to him about disabled children. Some of them have been injured through Israeli soldiers and conflict.”
Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s campaigns director, said: “Prince Charles’s words will resonate with many Palestinians because they appear to signal a recognition that half a century of Israeli military occupation has produced huge injustice.
“In a discreet yet meaningful fashion, Prince Charles appears to have offered genuine sympathy and solidarity with Palestinians over their years of suffering.
“One concrete step towards freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians must include the UK Government finally banning the sale in the UK of goods from the illegal Israeli settlements.”