The king of Sweden on Saturday congratulated the people of the “State of Palestine” on their “National Day” in a letter.
It marked the first time a European monarch officially hailed the Palestinians’ unilateral declaration of independence in 1988.
“On the occasion of the National Day of the State of Palestine I wish to convey to your Excellency my best wishes for your health and happiness and for the prosperity of the people of the State of Palestine,” Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden wrote in a letter to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The missive, written on the king’s official letterhead and adorned with the Greater Coat of Arms of Sweden, came two and half weeks after Sweden became the first Western European country to officially recognize a Palestinian state.
Robert Rydberg, the head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s Middle East and North Africa Department and a former ambassador to Israel, tweeted that King Carl Gustaf’s greeting to Abbas was a “first.” The monarch always sends similar a greeting to Israel’s president on the country’s Independence Day.
The Palestinians consider November 15 their national day because on that day 26 years ago the Palestinian National Council under Yasser Arafat declared independence for the “State of Palestine” within the 1967 lines.
In 2012, the “State of Palestine” was granted nonmember observer state status at the United Nations General Assembly. In recent weeks, parliaments in Great Britain and Ireland have passed nonbinding motions urging the governments to recognized a Palestinian state. Similar votes are scheduled to take place in Spain and France in the coming days.
Stockholm’s unilateral move last month was heavily criticized by the Israeli government, and led the Foreign Ministry to recall its ambassador to Sweden. The diplomat, Isaac Bachman, has still not returned to Stockholm.
“Such measures only serve to bolster the Palestinians’ unrealistic demands and delay an agreement,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said at the time. “The Swedish government must understand that relations in the Middle East are more complex than one of Ikea’s flat-pack pieces of furniture, and would do well to act with greater sensitivity and responsibility.”