Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the media in Turkey.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinians were scheduled to open an embassy in Stockholm on Tuesday night, cementing closer ties just months after Sweden became the first Western European Union country to recognize Palestine as a state.
Visiting Sweden for the first time since recognition in October, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on other nations to follow Sweden’s example.
“Your recognition... should push forward negotiations in the peace process,” Abbas said.
Despite Sweden’s efforts to get other countries, especially in Scandinavia, to follow its lead, no other European government has recognized “Palestine,” despite several votes in European parliaments in favor of such a move.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon slammed the decision to open the embassy. This decision, he said, “is an unfortunate consequence of the mistaken policy adopted by the Swedish government. It will serve no purpose and certainly not advance us in the pursuit of negotiations.”
Relations between Sweden and Israel have nose-dived since the initial announcement last year. After Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman made it known that he would not meet his Swedish counterpart, Margot Wallstrom, on a planned visit here, she called off the trip. Israel in January temporarily recalled its ambassador.
Sweden’s government, aiming for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, is trying to make its international mark with calls for a feminist foreign policy and criticism of Israel.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who used his inaugural address in parliament to announce his country would recognize a Palestinian state, said “Palestine” would open an embassy in Stockholm immediately. In most Western European countries, the Palestinians have a diplomatic mission, not a full embassy.
Lofven’s decision to recognize “Palestine” last year was widely seen in Israel as a domestic political move, with his party promising to recognize it during the campaign in order to win over the country’s not insubstantial Islamic electorate.
On Tuesday he promised more aid to the Palestinians, but stressed he wanted progress on reform.
“There are challenges: We must help one another to fight corruption, increase gender equality, improve respect for human rights and of course continue the state building process,” Lofven said.
A deal signed by the two leaders will see Sweden raise aid to the Palestinians by $179.74 million over the next five years.