Sweden recognizes Palestine, following up on new prime minister’s vow


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Sweden officially recognized the state of Palestine less than a month after its new prime minister said it would.

The recognition, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement published Thursday in the Dagens Nyheter daily, “is an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Sweden’s traditionally close ties with the State of Israel are now complemented by an equal relationship to the other party.”

Wallstrom said the recognition “will be followed by enhanced efforts to support the development of democracy and human rights in Palestine.”

Israel recalled its ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachmann, in response. In a statement, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the recognition was “an unfortunate decision which strengthens radical elements and Palestinian recalcitrance.”

In his inaugural address to parliament on Oct. 3, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law. A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine.”

Lofven did not say when Sweden would recognize Palestinian statehood. His center-left Social Democrats party took 31.2 percent of the vote in an election last month and formed a coalition with the Green Party.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in a statement called the move an “unfortunate decision which strengthens radical elements and Palestinian recalcitrance.”

“The Swedish government must understand that relations in the Middle East are more complex than one of Ikea’s flat-pack pieces of furniture, and would do well to act with greater sensitivity and responsibility,” Liberman said, referring to the Swedish company.

Seven European Union members already have recognized a Palestinian state. They are Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania. Iceland also has done so.

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