Spain, Ireland, Malta, Slovenia agree to work towards Palestinian state recognition

Joint statement on sidelines of European Council summit calls for ‘two-state solution, with Israeli and Palestinian States living side-by-side’

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks to the press before a European Council summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 21, 2024. (John Thys/AFP)
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks to the press before a European Council summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 21, 2024. (John Thys/AFP)

Spain has agreed with the leaders of Ireland, Malta and Slovenia to take the first steps towards recognizing a Palestinian state, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday following a meeting of the European Council in Brussels.

Speaking for Spain, Sanchez expected the recognition to happen during the current four-year legislature that began last year.

He told reporters the agreement was reached after meeting with his Irish, Maltese and Slovenian counterparts on the sidelines of the Council gathering on Friday morning.

“We are agreed that the only way to achieve lasting peace and stability in the region is through implementation of a two-state solution, with Israeli and Palestinian States living side-by-side, in peace and security,” read a joint statement issued by Ireland after the meeting.

In February, the Knesset voted to back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration opposing any “unilateral” recognition of a Palestinian state, as international calls grow for the revival of efforts to reach a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.

Issued amid the ongoing war in Gaza, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, the Israeli position states that any permanent accord with the Palestinians must be reached through direct negotiations between the sides and not by international dictates.

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a Peace Conference in Washington DC. September 2, 2010. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Netanyahu brought the vote to the Knesset in the wake of reports that the United States and several Arab partners were preparing a detailed plan for a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians that includes a “firm timeline” for a Palestinian state.

Arab states and the European Union agreed at a meeting in Spain in November that a two-state solution was the answer to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Since 1988, 139 out of 193 United Nations member states have recognized Palestinian statehood.

Netanyahu has in the past spoken out against the creation of a Palestinian state and others have also pushed back against comments from Washington and elsewhere suggesting that talks on ending fighting in Gaza be used to jumpstart long-moribund efforts to reach a two-state solution.

While some international actors believe the violence only underlines the need for a peace deal, Israeli leaders argue the attack highlighted the extreme danger of an autonomous Palestinian entity near its population centers. And amid soaring support among Palestinians for the October 7 atrocities, there appears to be little appetite in the Israeli public for peace efforts.

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