Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Stockholm as the Nordic state readied to open the first Palestinian embassy in Western Europe Tuesday evening.
Abbas, who is visiting Sweden for the first time since it became the first European country to recognize Palestine in October, called on other countries to follow Stockholm’s lead, and said unilateral statehood efforts for serve peace talks, not replace them.
Abbas said the Palestinian leadership was “looking forward” to resuming peace negotiations with Israel, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA.
“We are extending our hands to a just peace based on the international legitimacy resolutions,” he said during a press conference together with Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven.
Lovfen said with statehood, the Palestinians would now be held to different standards.
“According to our view, Palestine is from now on a state. Therefore our expectations from Palestine and its leaders are going to grow,” Löfven said.
Löfven announced Krona 1.5 billion ($180 million) in increased aid to the Palestinians, to be given in installments until 2019 and which will be dedicated to fighting corruption, advancing human rights and gender equality.
Löfven asked Israel and the Palestinians to be “constructive,” saying there should be no contradiction between having good relations with Israel and with the Palestinians..
Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem — who last month postponed a trip to Israel — has said she will use the Abbas visit to “prepare for a revived peace process.”
Sweden is the only major western European country to have recognized Palestine, a move that Abbas commended during his visit.
He emphasized that Sweden’s recognition or future UN membership would only enhance peace efforts with Israel, not replace them.
Abbas said that Israeli settlement building in the West Bank was “collective punishment” against Palestinians, and would never facilitate reaching a peace agreement, the agency reported.
Abbas’ visit comes a month after a senior Israeli official said Wallstroem was not welcome for official visits to the country.
“It does not make us happy to see (Abbas) here on a visit with a new government that very quickly decided to recognize Palestine,” Israel’s ambassador to Stockholm Isaac Bachman told news agency TT.
According to the Palestinian Authority, around 135 countries have recognized the state of Palestine including several that are now EU members.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in April last year, and a bloody war in Gaza erupted just a few months later.