‘Liberman to shun Swedish FM when she visits Israel’

Foreign minister said to accuse Stockholm of obscuring intention to recognize Palestine, triggering string of EU motions

Margot Wallstrom, Sweden's minister of foreign affairs, in her office in Stockholm, October 31, 2014 (AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand)
Margot Wallstrom, Sweden's minister of foreign affairs, in her office in Stockholm, October 31, 2014 (AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand)

In a response to the EU Parliament’s move to recognize a Palestinian state, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman will boycott Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström during her upcoming visit to Israel, Channel 2 reported Wednesday.

Liberman is refusing to meet Wallström, who is expected to visit next month, in reaction to Stockholm’s decision in October to become the first major European Union member state to back Ramallah’s unilateral statehood bid, the report said.

The foreign minister reportedly indicated that Sweden had intentionally obscured its intention to recognize a Palestinian state, and refused to hear any Israeli arguments opposing the motion.

Other European parliaments that passed similar motions at least considered Israeli officials’ arguments before making their decision, Lieberman said.

It was not immediately clear whether the visit would be officially boycotted by the Israel government or whether Liberman alone intended to give Wallström the cold shoulder.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman speaking at a meeting in the Knesset to discuss Operation Protective Edge, on August 4, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. (photo credit: Flash90)

Sweden’s move to recognize Palestine in October set off a domino effect among other European parliaments that voted in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state.

At the time, Liberman called Stockholm’s decision “unfortunate” and questioned the Swedish government’s grasp of regional complexities. “Relations in the Middle East are a lot more complex than the self-assembly furniture of IKEA,” he quipped.

Israel’s ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman was recalled for consultations in Jerusalem.

In response to Liberman’s barb, Wallström, in an interview with CNN, stayed with the metaphor involving Sweden’s iconic furniture giant as she urged dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

“I will be happy to send him a flat pack of IKEA furniture and he will also see that what you need to put that together is, first of all, a partner,” she said. “And you also need to cooperate and you need a good manual and I think we have most of those elements.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the recognition of a Palestinian state “in principle” following a series of votes on the issue in EU nations.

The motion was a watered-down version of a resolution that had urged EU member states to recognize a Palestinian state unconditionally.

The final resolution accepts “in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced.”

Lawmakers approved the motion by 498 votes to 88 with 111 abstentions.

News agencies contributed to this report.

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