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Swedish FM censures ‘corruption in Palestine’ during meetings with PA leaders

Ann Linde expresses hesitation about aid; Palestinian official claims statements, published by Sweden’s public broadcaster, were fabricated by Hamas-affiliated websites

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde meets with Palestinian Authority premier Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 (WAFA)
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde meets with Palestinian Authority premier Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 (WAFA)

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde criticized alleged corruption in the Palestinian Authority, following a meeting with the PA’s leaders in Ramallah on Tuesday during her recent visit to Israel and the West Bank.

Linde expressed hesitation about Swedish economic aid to the Palestinians, saying that widespread corruption was hindering Swedish support. The rare rebuke marked a departure from Sweden’s longstanding backing of the Palestinians.

“If we are going to be able to completely support economic development, we of course cannot have corruption on such a level as there is in Palestine,” Linde told Sweden’s public broadcaster on Tuesday, before her meetings with officials in Ramallah.

Accusations of nepotism and corruption have long dogged officials in Ramallah and have occasionally sparked scattered protests against the Palestinian Authority. According to a recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Polling and Survey Research, around 83 percent of Palestinians believe there is corruption in PA institutions.

Linde met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, and her counterpart Riyad al-Malki during her quick visit to the area on Tuesday.

“[Linde] stressed that Sweden will continue to provide support to the Palestinian people to build the institutions of the Palestinian state,” Abbas’s office said in a statement following the meeting.

The Swedish government’s current funding plan allocates around $180 million in development aid to the Palestinians between 2020 and 2024. Sweden has also funded millions in direct budget support to Ramallah through the European Union, the PA’s largest single donor.

“We are proud of our relationship with Sweden, whether bilateral or as part of the European Union. We hope that it will serve as a model for the rest of Europe,” Shtayyeh said in a statement following the meeting.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde on October 19, 2021 (WAFA)

Linde also met earlier with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, during the first visit to Israel by a Swedish foreign minister in a decade.

Linde’s comments on Palestinian corruption circulated widely in Palestinian media, especially on news sites affiliated with the Hamas terror group.

Longtime Abbas aide Ahmad Majdalani, who currently serves as social affairs minister, claimed that the statements were fabricated by Hamas-affiliated media, although they appeared on the Swedish government-funded broadcaster.

“Ann Linde is our personal friend, and a long-time member of the Social Democratic Party, who are our comrades and partners in the Socialist Internationale… it is impossible that she would make such a statement,” Majdalani told the independent Palestinian network Wattan.

International donors have grown increasingly frustrated by the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as more openly critical of what some observers see as a corrupt and authoritarian PA.

A spokesperson for the Swedish Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

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