Sweden on Thursday officially recognized the state of Palestine, less than a month after the country’s newly-elected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced his intention to do so, according to media reports. The move makes Sweden the first European Union member in Western Europe to do so.
“Today the government takes the decision to recognize the state of Palestine,” Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said, according to a report by Dagens Nyheter, a Swedish daily.
“It is an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination…we hope that this will show the way for others,” she said, adding: "Our recognition of Palestine aims at making the parties to the conflict less unequal."
With Thursday’s decision, Sweden became the ninth European nation to officially recognize the state of Palestine. Seven EU members in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean have already recognized the Palestinian state. Among non-EU members, Iceland is the only other western European nation to have done so.
Following the decision, Israel reportedly summoned the Swedish ambassador to register its displeasure. Earlier in October, the Israeli foreign ministry had criticized Lofven’s announcement on recognizing Palestinian statehood, calling it a decision made “in a hurry…before he had time even to study the issue in depth,” according to media reports.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, however, welcomed the move and reportedly termed it a “brave and historic” decision.
“All countries of the world that are still hesitant to recognize our right to an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital, should follow Sweden's lead,” a spokesperson for Abbas quoted him as saying, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.
Sweden’s decision comes just a day after the United Nations criticized the Israeli government’s decision to approve the construction of over 1,000 settler homes in parts of East Jerusalem that Palestinians claim as a part of their future state.
“The reality is that continued settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory is doing significant damage to any possibility of a lasting peace between the two sides and is moving the situation ever closer to a one-state reality,” Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, reportedly said.