Sweden Recognizes Palestinian State
Sweden on Thursday became the first EU member state in Western Europe to recognise the Palestinian state.
While the Palestinians welcomed Stockholm’s move, Israel summoned its ambassador to Sweden for consultations to express its disappointment.
The recognition was "an important step that confirms the Palestinians' right to self-determination", Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement published in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.
"We hope that this will show the way for others," she added.
Wallstrom saidthe recognition aims to back moderate factions among the Palestinians, bring greater equality in future negotiations with Israel and give young Palestinians hope of a peaceful solution to the decades-old conflict.
"The aim of Sweden's recognition is to help reach the goal of Israel and Palestine co-existing side by side in peace,"Wallstrom said.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed Sweden’s decision.
“All countries of the world that are still hesitant to recognise our right to an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, [should] follow Sweden’s lead,” a spokesman for Abbas quoted him as saying.
Palestinians are seeking statehood in the West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capital. Withdirect peace talks with Israel being stalled, the Palestinians have opted for lobbying the international community to recognize their sovereignty claim.
Israel described the move by Stockholm as counterproductive and said it would hurt prospects for future negotiations and bolster extremist Palestinians.
Israel, which has built settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, has long maintained that the Palestinians can only have their state recognized through direct negotiations and not through other diplomatic channels.
"The Swedish government should understand that Middle East relations are more complex than a piece of self-assembled IKEA furniture, and the matter should be handled with responsibility and sensitivity," Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement.
The UN General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the state of Palestine in 2012, but the European Union and most EU member states have yet to give official recognition.
A total of 134 countries worldwide have already recognised a Palestinian state, including seven eastern European and Mediterranean EU members. Until Thursday, non-EU member Iceland was the only western European country to have done so.
British lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution recognizing a Palestinian state earlier this month. Similar votes are in the pipeline in France, Ireland and Spain.
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