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Sweden recognizes Palestine

By Agencies in Stockholm and Ramallah | China Daily | Updated: 2014-10-31 07:55

Abbas describes move as 'brave and historic' as Israel summons envoy

Sweden officially recognized the State of Palestine on Thursday, becoming the first major Western European country to do so.

The announcement by Stockholm's foreign minister came less than a month after the government announced its intention to make the controversial move.

"Today the government takes the decision to recognize the State of Palestine," Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement published in the Dagens Nyheter daily. "It's a contribution to a better future for a region that has for too long been characterized by frozen negotiations, destruction and frustration.

"It is an important step that confirms the Palestinians' right to self-determination. We hope that this will show the way for others."

The Palestinians are seeking statehood in the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capital.

Sweden recognizes Palestine

Stefan Loefven, Sweden's prime minister, announced in his inaugural address to parliament in early October that his country would become the first EU member in Western Europe to recognize the State of Palestine.

The UN General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the State of Palestine in 2012, but the European Union and most EU countries have yet to give official recognition.

"EU members confirmed in 2009 their readiness to recognize the State of Palestine when it was appropriate," Wallstrom said. "We are now ready to take the lead."

She said that, despite the fact that the Palestinian authorities did not have full control of their land and the country did not have fixed borders, Palestine fulfilled the criteria for recognition under international law.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the move.

His spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said, "Abbas welcomes Sweden's decision," adding that the Palestinian leader described the decision as "brave and historic".

Abu Rudeina said the move was linked to months of soaring tensions in occupied East Jerusalem, where Palestinians have clashed almost daily with Israeli police. Israel recently pushed ahead with plans to build another 3,600 settler homes in the area, drawing international condemnation.

"This decision comes as a response to Israeli measures in Jerusalem," he said.

Abbas called on other countries to follow Sweden's lead.

"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," his said.

'Premature' action

While the Palestinians cheered the move, Israel summoned Sweden's ambassador to protest.

Israel has long insisted that the Palestinians can only establish their promised state through direct negotiations, and not through other diplomatic channels.

Seven EU members have already recognized the State of Palestine - Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania. Non-EU member Iceland is the only other Western European nation to have done so.

The State of Palestine is currently recognized by 135 UN member states.

The United States cautioned Sweden against recognition, calling it "premature" and saying a Palestinian state could only come through a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

AFP - Reuters

(China Daily 10/31/2014 page11)

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