Sweden’s FM cites Palestinian despair in discussing cause of Paris attacks

Israeli Foreign Ministry slams Margot Wallström’s ‘total political blindness,’ says it could ‘lead to tragedy’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

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)

Friday’s terror attacks in Paris that killed 129 people were rooted in the frustration of Muslims in the Middle East, including that of Palestinians, Sweden’s foreign minister said this week in a television interview.

“To counteract the radicalization we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East of which not the least the Palestinians see that there is no future: we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence,” Margot Wallström told Swedish television network SVT2T (link in Swedish) a short while after the November 13 attacks, which were claimed by the Islamic State terrorist organization.

Jerusalem reacted angrily to Wallström’s statement. “It would seem that the Swedish foreign minister is afflicted with total political blindness,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel on Monday. “This blindness may lead to tragedy.”

The Swedish minister’s controversial statement was first reported by David Metzler, an American-born Swede living in Israel, who called it “foolish and irresponsible at best,” in a Times of Israel blog post.

The Swedish embassy in Israel responded by denying that Wallström had “said that Israeli Palestinian conflict is linked to tragic events in Paris.”

In her official response, posted Saturday to the Swedish Foreign Ministry website, Wallström condemned Friday’s “despicable” attacks, calling them acts of terrorism that target democracy and open societies. “They must and will be met with resolve; terrorism must be opposed and those responsible must be called to account.”

She also spoke of the “need to tackle the underlying causes of terrorism,” arguing for a “long-term approach” and for the strengthening of international efforts against extremism and fanaticism. “Together we must stand up for democracy and for humanistic values,” she concluded.

On October 30, 2014, Sweden became the first Western European nations to formally recognize the “State of Palestine,” drawing an angry Israeli response.

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