Sweden became the first member of the European Union to recognize a state of Palestine Friday. The new Swedish prime minister, Stefan Lofven, said the decision would give new momentum to negotiations that aim to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a two-state solution, Reuters reported. He did not give a date for official recognition.
"The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution," Lofven said during his inaugural address to the parliament in Stockholm. “A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine.”
Sweden is the first nation to extend such recognition while an EU member. Others have done so before joining the group.
Other EU members have been reluctant to recognize Palestine because of opposition from the U.S. and Israel, according to the BBC. Part of the EU members’ reluctance came from the fact that the Hamas movement ruled the Gaza Strip. Recognizing Palestine as a whole would give legitimacy to a militant group that the U.S. and several EU members consider a terrorist organization.
Sweden’s announcement came after Hamas ceded power to the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah-led government last week. Although Hamas still plans to be part of the PA government, it will wield significantly less power. The move underlines how this summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel that left more than 2,100 Palestinians and 72 Israelis dead weakened the militant group, Middle East experts recently told International Business Times.
Part of the agreement between Palestinian factions assumes a deal with Israel to return to the 1967 borders, which Israel has never agreed to. This would require Israel to remove all settlements in the occupied West Bank. The PA will submit a resolution to the United Nations Security Council asking that Israel leave Palestine by November 2016, according to the Guardian.
Sweden joins the 130 countries that have already recognized Palestine. The U.N. recognized Palestine as a state at the 2012 General Assembly, but it is not yet an official member. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted another membership application last week at this year’s General Assembly. At the 2013 Assembly, the Obama administration requested that Abbas put Palestine’s application on hold in an attempt to keep faltering peace talks alive.