Sweden recognized Palestinian state

Mon, 06.10.2014 16:24

KYIV/Ukraine in Arabic/ Sweden pledged to formally recognize the State of Palestine, setting itself up to become the first major western European nation to do so.

“The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved by a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with the principles of international law,” Prime Minister Stefan Loefven said today in his government declaration speech in Stockholm. Both Israel and Palestine have “legitimate demands for national sovereignty and security” and therefore Sweden “will recognize the State of Palestine,” he said.

Mr. Lofven leads a minority government made up of his Social Democrats and the Greens that is quite likely to be a weak government; it commands only 138 seats in Parliament — 37 short of an outright majority. The Social Democrats emerged as the largest party in elections on Sept. 14, defeating a center-right coalition led by Mr. Lofven’s predecessor, Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Though Mr. Reinfeldt’s government had been critical of Israeli policies on settlements and the recent Gaza war, it refused to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, arguing that the government there did not satisfy a basic criterion of sovereignty: to have control over its territory.

Mr. Lofven told Parliament on Friday that “the conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law.” Such a solution, he said, “requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence,” and “Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine.” He did not specify when that would happen.

The announcement will be welcome news for President Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, who has been pushing for formal statehood while negotiations with Israel over a permanent peace settlement have repeatedly faltered.

The Palestinians are seeking pledges for reconstruction aid to rebuild Gaza, which was badly damaged in the conflict. At a conference this month in Cairo, Mr. Abbas is expected to ask for $4 billion in aid for Gaza, which is still largely blockaded by both Israel and Egypt. His Fatah political movement and Hamas, the rival militant group that controls Gaza, have formed a unity government but are still arguing over how to make such a government function in practice. Even so, Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, issued a statement on Friday calling on other European Union nations to follow Sweden’s lead and recognize Palestinian statehood. He praised Sweden for its support for “the values of freedom and dignity and human rights,” and said that recognition of Palestine would aid “a comprehensive and just peace.” His statement continued: “In the name of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership, we thank and salute the Swedish position.” He mentioned Malta, Cyprus, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia as examples of other European states that recognize Palestine.

Israel, for its part, is expected to criticize Mr. Lofven’s announcement, which came at the start of the quiet period around Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Israel has argued that a sovereign Palestinian state with fixed borders can emerge only at the end of negotiations that yield a permanent peace settlement. Israel also argues that the Oslo Accords committed both sides not to pursue unilateral moves before a final settlement.

The United Nations General Assembly approved the recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine — as a nonmember observer state — in November 2012. More than 100 countries recognize the state of Palestine. But the United States, the European Union and most of its member countries do not. The State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, told reporters in Washington on Friday that the Swedish decision was “premature.”

“We certainly support Palestinian statehood, but it can only come through a negotiated outcome, a resolution of final status issues and mutual recognitions by both parties,” Ms. Psaki said.

The foreign minister in the new Swedish government will be Margot Wallstrom, a former European Union commissioner and former United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict. She replaces Carl Bildt, who gave Sweden a prominent profile in international affairs during his tenure.


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