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Confusion reigns over when Sweden will recognize Palestine

Swedish PM says move will only come after talks with Israel; FM asserts recognition will hasten resumption of peace talks

Sweden's new Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announces his new government in the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Jonas Ekstromer, TT News Agency)
Sweden's new Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announces his new government in the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Jonas Ekstromer, TT News Agency)

Sweden’s Prime Minister reiterated Sunday that his country was set to officially recognize the State of Palestine, but clarified that a date for the actual recognition act had not yet been determined.

In a telephone conversation with opposition leader Isaac Herzog, Stefan Lofven stressed that a Swedish recognition of Palestine would only be approved after rigorous talks on the matter with Israeli, Palestinian, and US officials, Haaretz reported. “We will not recognize Palestine as a state tomorrow morning,” Lofven assured Herzog. “We want to speak beforehand with all relevant parties, including Israel, the Palestinians, the United States and other EU countries.”

Lofven reportedly went on to say that recognizing the state of Palestine complied with the Swedish government’s stated guidelines.

Several minutes after Lofven’s talk with the opposition leader, Herzog received another phone call from Sweden, this time from Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, who asserted that recognizing the state of Palestine would hasten the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We want to recognize the State of Palestine, because we think that the negotiations should take place between the two nations,” Wallstrom told Herzog.

Wallstrom had said earlier that she hoped Swedish recognition of Palestine would “inspire and give some new energy to the negotiations.”

During his inaugural speech Friday, Lofven said “the conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law.

“The two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to co-exist peacefully. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine,” he added.

He didn’t say when or how that would happen.

Several European countries including Hungary, Slovakia and Romania have given their recognition of Palestine as a state but did so before they became members of the EU.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry protested Lofven’s announcement and said it would summon Sweden’s ambassador to Israel, Carl Magnus, in order to clarify the statements made by the prime minister. Magnus, on his part, said his country was interested in keeping up “a good and constructive dialogue with Israel,” adding that Sweden wanted to assist in the resumption of peace talks, Channel 2 reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, said Sunday that “unilateral steps” would not advance peace, but would, rather, push it off.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki welcomed Lofven’s announcement Friday and called on other European Union countries to follow suit.

“In the name of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership, we thank and salute the Swedish position,” Malki said in a statement.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US looks forward to working with the new government of Sweden — a close partner — but called international recognition of a Palestinian state “premature.”

“We believe that the process is one that has to be worked out through the parties to agree on the terms of how they’ll live in the future of two states living side-by-side,” she said.

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