JERUSALEM (JTA) – Sweden’s foreign minister canceled a scheduled trip to Israel.
Saturday night’s cancellation of Carl Bildt’s trip scheduled for Sept. 11 comes on the heels of disintegrating relations between the two countries over the publication in a Swedish newspaper of an article alleging that Israeli soldiers harvested the organs of Palestinians they killed. Bildt has refused to condemn the publication of the article, citing freedom of the press. Israel calls it a blood libel.
Swedish officials told several media outlets that the visit was canceled until after the United Nations General Assembly later this month and would be rescheduled in the hopes that there would be more progress in the Middle East peace process. They denied the controversy over the article was the cause of the cancellation.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry told Ha’aretz the trip was canceled due to the Swedish government’s concern that Bildt would be shunned during his visit.
Sweden currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency. The presidency is scheduled to be taken over by Spain, whose foreign minister on Saturday condemned an interview in a major Spanish newspaper with known Holocaust denier David Irving.