Sun, Oct 05, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Swedish PM vows recognition of Palestinian state

US CAUTION:Washington warned against the European nation’s plan, saying that recognizing Palestine would be premature, as it can only come through negotiations

AFP, STOCKHOLM

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven speaks to reporters in Stockholm on Friday after he said the country would recognise a Palestinian state.

Photo: AFP

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven on Friday announced that the country will recognize a Palestinian state, becoming the first EU member in Western Europe to do so.

Social Democrat leader Loefven — who won last month’s general election — said the Nordic country wanted to bolster a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Washington reacted quickly, calling Stockholm’s recognition “premature,” while Palestinians cheered the decision as “courageous” and urged the rest of the EU to follow suit.

“A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and the will to coexist peacefully,” Loefven said in his inaugural address to parliament.

This should take place with respect for the “legitimate demands of the Palestinians and the Israelis as regards their right to self-determination and security,” Loefven added.

Seven EU members in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean have already recognized a Palestinian state, namely 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.

Yet the US cautioned against Sweden joining them.

“We believe international recognition of a Palestinian state is premature,” US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“We certainly support Palestinian statehood, but it can only come through a negotiated outcome, a resolution of final status issues and mutual recognitions by both parties,” Psaki said.

Psaki said Israelis and the Palestinians must be the ones “to agree on the terms on how they live in the future two states, living side by side.”

Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstroem told public broadcaster SR that Sweden was “in good company, since 130 countries in the world have already done the same.”

According to an Agence France-Pressec count, at least 112 countries have recognized a Palestinian state.

A Palestinian estimate puts the number at 134.

Wallstroem said that a recognition would be “an important signal facilitating ... a two-state solution.”

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the rest of the EU should follow Sweden’s example.

“We hope that all countries of the European Union will take the same courageous and remarkable decision ... as there is no reason not to recognise the Palestinian state,” Erekat said in the West Bank capital of Ramallah.

Loefven’s Social Democratic-Green Party coalition — which formed a minority government on Friday — is more supportive of demands for a Palestinian state than Sweden’s previous center-right administration.

The Social Democrats, the largest party in the Swedish parliament, wrote in their election manifesto that “Israel’s war crimes must be investigated and the occupation of Gaza lifted,” with the party adding that “Sweden and the rest of the world must actively support its [Palestine’s] work towards reconciliation.”

The prime minister did not specify whether the policy would be put to a vote in parliament.

The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment when asked if parliamentary approval was necessary.

Palestinian envoy to Sweden Hala Husni Fariz said in a statement that the decision “reflects the historical support of the Swedish government for freedom, dignity and human rights.”

Sweden voted in favor of Palestinian observer status at the UN in 2012, which was granted despite opposition from the US and other countries.

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