Sweden recognises Palestinian state, Israel denounces move

Sweden on Thursday officially recognised the state of Palestine, becoming the first western European Union member to do so, in a move the Palestinians hailed as “historic” and Israel denounced as “deplorable.”

“Today, the government takes the decision to recognise the state of Palestine,” Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem wrote in the mass-circulation Dagens Nyheter daily, less than a month after the country’s new Prime Minister announced the government’s plans to make the controversial move.

“It is an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination,” she said, adding that “we hope that this will show the way for others.”

The move comes as Israeli-Palestinian tensions soar in Jerusalem following months of almost daily clashes in the city’s occupied eastern part.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas immediately hailed Stockholm’s decision as “brave and historic” and called for others to follow suit.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Minister denounced the move, saying it would undermine efforts to resolve the conflict.

“The decision of the Swedish government to recognise a Palestinian state is a deplorable decision which only strengthens extremist elements and Palestinian rejectionism,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement.

Sweden’s new Prime Minister Stefan Loefven, a Social Democrat, announced in his inaugural address to Parliament in early October that his country would become the first EU member in Western Europe to recognise a Palestinian state.

While the Palestinians cheered the move, Israel summoned Sweden’s ambassador to protest and express disappointment.

The United States cautioned Sweden against recognition, calling it “premature” and saying the Palestinian state could only come through a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians, as Israel has insisted for long.

Seven EU members in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean have already recognised a Palestinian state — Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania. Non-EU member Iceland is the only other western European nation to have done so.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister said: “The government considers that international law criteria for recognition of a Palestinian state have been fulfilled.” — AFP

U.S. warns against “premature” move, stresses importance of negotiated solution

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