Margot Wallström
Sweden's foreign minister Margot Wallström. File photo: Henrik Montgomery / TT

Israel summons Swedish ambassador over Wallström statement

Sweden's ambassador to Israel was summoned by the foreign ministry in Jerusalem on Monday to clarify comments by Margot Wallström that were interpreted as linking the Israel-Palestine conflict to the terrorist attacks in Paris.

The criticism followed a roughly 15-minute long interview on Swedish Television on Saturday. About two thirds into the interview, Wallström, Sweden's minister for foreign affairs, was asked: "How worried are you about the radicalization of young people in Sweden who fight for IS?"

Wallström replied:

Yes, of course we have reason to worry, not just in Sweden, but around the world about the fact that so many are being radicalized. And here, again, you come back to situations like the one in the Middle East where not least the Palestinians feel like there is no future them. They feel like they either have to accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.

Wallström's press secretary, Erik Wirkensjö, told newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the statement was part of a longer argument about radicalization and that it does not link the Israel-Palestine conflict to the terrorist attacks in Paris. Wirkensjö said:

It's a misunderstanding, a direct error, a false claim which has circulated on the internet for a day or so and which has also reached Israel. The ambassador has now had the opportunity to tell the Israeli foreign ministry that Margot Wallström neither directly nor indirectly made that link.

The Swedish foreign ministry also issued a clarification in which it denied that Wallström had made a connection between the Paris attacks and the Israel-Palestine conflict, a statement cited by the Jerusalem Post. It said:

In the interview which is referred to, no implication or reference was made that implied that the Israeli Palestinian conflict had any relevance for the tragic events in Paris. We condemn all acts of terror. We must now unite as democracies to fight for our common values in these challenging times.

The Embassy of Sweden in Israel also took to Twitter to clarify Wallström's statement:

According to the Jerusalem Post, Sweden's ambassador to Israel, Carl Magnus Nesser, spoke with the director-general of Israel's foreign ministry, Dore Gold, for nearly half-an-hour on Monday. Gold apparently expressed Israel’s displeasure at Sweden’s policy in general when it comes to Israel.

Relations between Israel and Sweden have been strained since Sweden's Social Democrat-Green Party government officially recognized the state of Palestine in 2014.

Both opposition Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund and Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra were critical to Wallström's statement, saying it would have been best not mention the situation in Israel while answering questions about the terror attacks in France.

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