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News, October 2014
Margot Wallstrom Announces Sweden's Recognition of Palestinian State, Abbas Welcomes it, US-Israel Unhappy
October 30, 2014
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Sweden officially recognizes Palestinian state, second Scandinavian country after Iceland
Russia TV, October 30, 2014 12:20
Sweden has recognized the State of Palestine officially, according to its foreign ministry. The Scandinavian country has become the first West-European EU state to recognize Palestine as a state. Israel (which has invaded Palestine and ruled it by force since 1948) is not pleased.
The news follows an earlier hint by Prime Minister Stefan Lovfen in his Social Democrat manifesto, during his inaugural address in October, that this would happen. The idea was quickly met with criticism from the United States and Israel.
"Our decision comes at a critical time because over the last year we have seen how the peace talks have stalled, how decisions over new settlements on occupied Palestinian land have complicated a two-state solution and how violence has returned to Gaza," Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told reporters.
"By making our decision we want to bring a new dynamic to the stalled peace process."
"Today's recognition is a contribution to a better future for a region that has for too long been characterized by frozen negotiations, destruction and frustration," she wrote earlier on Thursday in the daily Dagens Nyheter.
"Some will state this decision comes too soon. I am afraid, rather, that it is too late."
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has already welcomed the "historic" move by Sweden. "President Abbas welcomes Sweden's decision," Nabil Abu Rudeina, the leader's spokesman told AFP.
The reaction from Israel followed soon after: “The decision of the Swedish government to recognise a Palestinian state is a deplorable decision which only strengthens extremist elements and Palestinian rejectionism,” the Jewish state's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.
Wallstrom rejected accusations that Sweden was taking any sides in the matter.
The (Palestinian) territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been seeking autonomy from their (Israeli) occupiers for decades now, with many people having perished in one of the most prolonged and bloody confrontations in history.
The Palestinians have in this time also lobbied for foreign players to accept their claim to a sovereign state.
Wallstrom thinks a voice must be given to what she sees as the more moderate part of the population.
The politician believes this will place them on a more equal footing with Israel in peace talks that historically often flounder.
"EU members confirmed in 2009 their readiness to recognize the State of Palestine when it was appropriate," Wallstrom said.
"We are now ready to take the lead. We hope this can show the way for others."
She added that the fact that the Palestinians don't have full control of their land or have fixed borders should not be an obstacle to international recognition.
A vote at the UN General Assembly in 2012 secured a de facto Palestinian statehood, although a ‘yes’ vote from most EU members is still pending. While Sweden is the first EU member in Western Europe to have recognized the state, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta, Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic have already done so.
Iceland - the only non-EU member in the pack, has also recognized the Palestinian state.
Sweden recognizes Palestinian state, hopes will revive peace process
Thursday, October 30, 2014, 9:44am EDT
The Swedish government officially recognized the state of Palestine on Thursday, the first Western European country to do so, reflecting growing international exasperation over the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told reporters her government hoped it would bring a new dynamic to the situation.
"Our decision comes at a critical time because over the last year we have seen how the peace talks have stalled, how decisions over new settlements on occupied Palestinian land have complicated a two-state solution and how violence has returned to Gaza," she said.
The move drew praise from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and criticism from Israel, and has displeased the United States, Israel's principle supporter.
But Wallstrom rejected accusations that Sweden was taking sides and said she hoped other EU countries would follow its lead.
Palestinians seek statehood in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capital. The land was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, although Israeli soldiers and settlers pulled out of Gaza in 2005.
Years of efforts to forge a two-state solution have made little progress, with the last effort at negotiations collapsing in April. Palestinians now see little choice but to make a unilateral push for statehood.
A total of 135 countries already recognize Palestine, including several east European countries that did so before they joined the EU. Sweden was the first Western European country to do so.
The move drew immediate criticism from Israel, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman calling it a "wretched decision" that would bolster extremist Palestinian elements.
"The Swedish government should understand that Middle East relations are more complex than a piece of self-assembled Ikea furniture, and the matter should be handled with responsibility and sensitivity," Lieberman said in a foreign ministry statement.
The Palestinian leadership called on other countries to follow Sweden, saying that establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital would strengthen the chances for peace.
"This decision is a message to Israel and is an answer to its continued occupation of Palestinian land," said Nabeel Abu Rdeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Earlier this month the Palestinians' chief peace negotiator said a resolution would be put to the United Nations Security Council calling for a November 2017 deadline for the establishment of two states based on the boundaries that existed before the 1967 war.
With Britain's parliament having recognized Palestine in a non-binding vote earlier this month, and similar votes in the pipeline in Spain, France and Ireland, the Palestinians hope momentum in Europe is shifting.
Wallstrom said Sweden's move aimed at supporting moderate Palestinians and making their status more equal with that of Israel in peace negotiations, as well as giving hope to young people on both sides.
"We are taking the side of the peace process," she said.
The United States said earlier this month, when the Swedish move was in the works, that it believed international recognition of a Palestinian state would be premature. Statehood should come only through a negotiated outcome, it said (which will never come, as negotiations are intended by Israelis to be endless, forever).
The European Union said after the Swedish announcement on Thursday that the EU's objective was a two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.
"In order to achieve this, what is important is direct negotiations resume as soon as possible." European Commission spokesman Maya Kocijancic told a news conference. "As for the European Union position on recognition, the EU has said in the past that it would recognize a Palestinian state when appropriate."
Some EU states, which are closer to the Israeli position, were irritated by the Swedish move, diplomats in Brussels said.
Nonetheless, the Swedish move showed growing international frustration at the lack of progress, with continued Israeli settlement building on occupied land a particular point of concern. The Gaza war of July and August also refocused attention on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The U.N. Under Secretary-General for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, said in New York on Wednesday that Israel's decision to accelerate planning for some 1,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem raises serious doubts about the Israeli commitment to peace with the Palestinians.
The U.N. General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the state of Palestine in 2012, but the European Union and most EU countries have yet to give official recognition.
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