Sweden’s center-left government will recognize the state of Palestine after Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven confirmed the designation in his inaugural speech on Friday.
In 2012, the U.N. General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine. However, the European Union and most EU countries haven’t given the same recognition.
Sweden marks the first major European country and member of the EU to do so. Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia recognized Palestine in the past, but they did so before joining the EU.
Currently more than 130 countries recognize a Palestinian state.
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Prime Minister Lofven said in his speech, “The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law.” He elaborated that peace requires mutual recognition and co-existence, and then announced his country’s formal recognition.
Sweden has an influential voice in EU policy, so the move could influence other countries to think about making the same move. However, Lofven’s minority government may not be as powerful as past governments for the country. Lofven’s is likely to be a weak one because it only has 138 seats in Parliament, which is 37 short of majority.
The recognition is particularly significant amid high international tensions over the recent fighting in Gaza and the civilian casualties it has caused. Additionally, the Palestinians are current pushing at the U.N. to secure a resolution which would set a two-year deadline for Israel’s occupation in Palestinian territories and East Jerusalem.
Israel, the United States, and the EU itself are currently criticizing Sweden for the recognition. These governments believe an independent Palestinian state should only form through a negotiated process.
The Palestinians have sought after an independent, sovereign state in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem as its capital, and the Gaza Strip for decades.
More than 20 years of on-off peace talks between Palestine and Israel have failed to produce a permanent settlement, and current negotiations on a two-state solution are currently suspended.