'Iceland formally recognizes Palestinian state'

PA hopes that move will lead others to follow suit; Iceland becomes first Western country to recognize Palestinian territories as an independent state.

December 15, 2011 19:22
2 minute read.
Icelandic FM with Palestinian FM Riyad al-Malki

Icelandic FM with Palestinian FM Riyad al-Malki 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Ingolfur Juliusson)


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Iceland on Thursday became the first west European country to formally recognize a Palestinian state, three months after the Palestinians began to seek full membership of the United Nations with peace talks with Israel seemingly frozen indefinitely.

"[This] will surely have positive influence on other states to follow the same steps," Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told a news conference in Reykjavik.

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"Iceland didn't only talk the talk, we walked the walk," Icelandic Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson said. "We stood by our word, we have supported the Palestinian cause and today will not be the end of that, we will continue to do so."

Iceland's recognition is expected to amount to little more than a symbolic step as the Palestinian Authority strives to get United Nations membership. Its quest for a seat at the international body has so far failed.

East European countries that were once part of the old Soviet bloc, as well as Cyprus - all of them now European Union members - previously recognized "Palestine."

Over 100 countries thus far have endorsed the Palestinians’ 1988 unilateral declaration of independent statehood.

Jerusalem and Washington have opposed any recognition of a Palestinian state not based on the outcome of negotiations. The US's major west European allies echo this position. Iceland is outside the EU.

In late September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with east Jerusalem as its capital. The UN at present classifies Palestine only as an observer "entity."

Iceland led the way in recognizing the independence of the three Baltic states after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Peace talks have been suspended for more than a year. Abbas refuses to negotiate unless Israel freezes settlement building, while Israel demands direct negotiations take place without preconditions. Jerusalem has said unilateral moves will only harm the peace process.

Malki said he wanted negotiations to restart.

"We have committed ourselves to the process of negotiations and we continue to commit ourselves to the process of negotiations with the Israelis," he said. But the peace process was "going nowhere at the moment."

"Actually we are only seeing setbacks. The current Israeli government is not interested in peace and the international community is not doing what is needed," Malki said.

Jpost.com Staff contributed to this report

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