Swedish PM: “We are friends of Israel”
Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, says he stands by his government’s decision to recognise the state of Palestine, but insists the move does not mean Sweden is “anti-Israel”.
“It was high time this step [to recognise Palestine] was taken, but that does not mean we are against Israel. It means we are supporting a two-state solution,” Löfven told Swedish news agency TT on Sunday, adding that such a solution will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace in two separate states.
Löfven said his government understood from the outset that Israel would disapprove of the move, but that what is important now is to “sustain good and decent relations”. He added: “We are friends of Israel.”
According to Löfven, both Sweden and Israel would benefit from maintaining good relations, not least for financial reasons and for enabling exchanges around innovation. “We could cooperate in many areas,” Löfven told TT.
However, the newly appointed conservative Moderate Party leader, Anna Kinberg Batra, is critical of the government’s move to recognise a Palestinian state, telling TT: “It’s important not to weaken relations with the countries we want to impact and it looks like that is what’s happening now.”
Last week, Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs, Margot Wallström, postponed a trip to the Middle East, where she was due to meet her Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman as well as Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.
According to Sweden’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the trip was cancelled due to scheduling issues, but Swedish Radio News learnt that Wallström was “not welcome” in Israel and that she would not be granted any official meetings there.
Instead, Israel would have regarded Wallström’s trip as a private visit, Emmanuel Nochshon of the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs told Swedish Radio News. That meant local authorities would not arrange security for Wallström’s during her stay, which was also supposed to include participation at a Raoul Wallenberg seminar in Tel Aviv.
Last week’s event was the latest in a series of thorny exchanges between Sweden and Israel since the Social Democrat-Green Party government announced on October 3rd that Sweden would officially recognise the state of Palestine.
Speaking to TT, Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra also stressed the importance of achieving a two-state solution, but said it was “unfortunate and unexpected” that the decision to recognise the Palestinian state came as part of Löfven’s government declaration just weeks after the general election and without prior debate in the Swedish parliament’s foreign affairs committee.