Sweden acknowledges Palestine as a state

A growing number of western-European countries are calling for Palestine to be recognised as a state and Sweden is leading the way

Sweden has formally recognised the state of Palestine, making it the first European Union member-nation to acknowledge the country’s statehood in this way.

“It’s an important step that confirms the right of Palestinians to self-determination,” Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström declared in a newspaper article. “Sweden’s traditionally close ties with the state of Israel are now complemented by an equal relationship to the other party.”

Several other European nations now appear set to follow Sweden’s lead, in part as a way of expressing frustration with failed peace talks and Israel’s expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

“We’re not going to wait forever,” one senior European official told the Wall Street Journal. “Other European countries are poised to follow Sweden.”

In Britain, MPs passed a non-binding resolution calling for the recognition of the Palestinian state. Labour Party shadow foreign minister Ian Lucas said that the final decision on the matter lay with the coalition government, but pledged action if his party wins the next general election.

“We fully support two states living side by side in peace, recognised by all their neighbours. We are clear that Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given, but a right to be recognised,” he said.

French socialist lawmakers are now drawing up a similar resolution, asking the French government to recognise Palestine “as an instrument in working towards a final resolution to the conflict”.

A vote is also pending in the Danish parliament, and Irish officials have signalled support for the Palestinian state, saying they hope increased recognition will help break “the cycle of construction, reconstruction, destruction and further construction”.

Efforts to recognise Palestine have drawn harsh criticism from Israeli officials, with the country’s foreign minister warning his Swedish counterpart that “the Middle East is more complicated than self-assembly furniture from Ikea”.

Some European leaders also have doubts about the wisdom of recognising Palestine. Still, a number of senior EU officials appear determined to ensure the issue remains on the region’s radar.

“The risk is that if we do not move forward on the political track, we will go back… again to violence,” said Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s new foreign affairs chief.

Nonetheless, Mogherini said, European recognition of Palestine is secondary to efforts to resolve the region’s tensions in a way that is peaceful and fair for all concerned.

“What’s important for me is not whether other countries, be they European or not, recognise Palestine,” Mogherini told reporters. “I’d be happy if, during my mandate, the Palestinian state existed.”