Sweden’s foreign minister has confirmed that the Scandinavian country now officially recognises the state of Palestine, just under a month since the government said it intended to do so.
The news was announced to the delight of the Palestinians on Thursday, while Israel immediately recalled its ambassador to Stockholm for talks. It also summoned the Swedish ambassador to express its disappointment with the decision.
Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom explained that they wanted to recognise Palestine and President Mahmoud Abbas in order to put them on a level playing field with Israel and help move peace negotiations forward. She pointed out that they needed to support those who want negotiations and not violence, adding that it will give hope to the youth of Palestine and Israel that an alternative to violence is possible.
Sweden becomes the first member state of the EU in Western Europe to officially recognise the state of Palestine, which President Abbas described as “brave and historic”. Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Cyprus and Malta are the other EU countries that have recognised it, while Iceland, which is not in the EU, is the only other nation in Western Europe to do so.
Israel maintains that Palestine can only be recognised as a state via direct negotiations, not via alternative diplomatic channels. The US, meanwhile, told Sweden it would be premature to recognise Palestine as there should be a “negotiated solution” between Palestine and Israel first.
However, Wallstrom said Sweden considered that by recognising Palestine it had fulfilled its international law criteria.