The Swedish ambassador to Israel said that he plans to clarify Sweden’s position on recognizing a Palestinian state and its desire to maintain strong ties with Israel, in a meeting at the Foreign Ministry on Monday.
“Israel and Sweden have a strong relationship, and the new government has made it clear that it wants this to continue,” Carl Magnus Nesser told Army Radio on Monday morning, ahead of his meeting with Aviv Shir-on, the deputy director-general for European affairs at the ministry.
He added, however, that in deciding to recognize a Palestinian state, Sweden was making a statement to support the resumption of peace negotiations.
“The situation is clear, peace talks have been suspended for a while, and I think the conflict in Gaza made it clear that the status quo needs to be changed,” Nesser said. “The purpose of such a statement of this forthcoming recognition is of course to support negotiations leading to a two state solution.”
During his inaugural speech Friday, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that “the conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law.
“The two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to co-exist peacefully. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry protested Lofven’s announcement and said it would summon Nesser in order to clarify the statements made by the prime minister.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, said Sunday that “unilateral steps” would not advance peace, but would, rather, push it off.
PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki welcomed Lofven’s announcement Friday and called on other European Union countries to follow suit.
“In the name of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership, we thank and salute the Swedish position,” Maliki said in a statement.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US looks forward to working with the new government of Sweden — a close partner — but called international recognition of a Palestinian state “premature.”
“We believe that the process is one that has to be worked out through the parties to agree on the terms of how they’ll live in the future of two states living side-by-side,” she said.
However, later reports indicated there may have been some confusion about Lovfen’s statement.
In a telephone conversation with opposition leader Isaac Herzog, Lofven stressed that a Swedish recognition of Palestine would only be approved after rigorous talks on the matter with Israeli, Palestinian, and US officials, Haaretz reported.
“We will not recognize Palestine as a state tomorrow morning,” he assured Herzog. “We want to speak beforehand with all relevant parties, including Israel, the Palestinians, the United States and other EU countries.”
Lofven reportedly went on to say that recognizing the state of Palestine complied with the Swedish government’s stated guidelines.
Several minutes after Lofven’s talk with the opposition leader, Herzog received another phone call from Sweden, this time from Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, who asserted that recognizing the state of Palestine would hasten the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We want to recognize the State of Palestine, because we think that the negotiations should take place between the two nations,” Wallstrom told Herzog.
Wallstrom had said earlier that she hoped Swedish recognition of Palestine would “inspire and give some new energy to the negotiations.”