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Lieberman slams Sweden for recognising Palestinian state

Swedish ambassador "invited for a talk at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem" after Sweden's announcement it will recognise Palestinian state
Avigdor Lieberman speaks to journalists standing next to his Norwegian counterpart Borge Brende (AFP)

Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has slammed Sweden's decision to recognise a Palestinian state saying that the Swedish ambassador would be “invited for a talk at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem."

"Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that he regrets that the new prime minister was in a hurry to make statements on Sweden's position regarding recognition of a Palestinian state, apparently before he had time even to study the issue in depth," Lieberman's office quoted him as saying, in a statement issued late Saturday.

"Prime Minister Loefven needs to understand that no statement or act by an external party can be a substitute for direct negotiations between the sides," the statement said.

Sweden’s newly elected center-left government is set to recognise Palestine as a state, it was announced by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in parliament on Friday, a move which will make it the first western European country to do so.

Lofven insisted that ''the conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law.''

''A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine,'' he added.

The decision comes less than a month after Sweden's Social Democrats – in alliance with the Greens and the Left Party – swept 14 September parliamentary polls.

Countries such as Hungary, Poland and Slovakia also recognise Palestine as a state; however they did so before joining the European Union.

Although the UN General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012, the European Union has not given official recognition.

On Thursday, the EU condemned Israeli plans to build 2,610 settlements in Givat Hamatos located in southeast Jerusalem.

''This represents a further highly detrimental step that undermines prospects for a two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians,'' the European Union External Action said in a statement released Thursday.

Seven EU members in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean have already recognised a Palestinian state, namely Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania.

Non-EU member Iceland is the only other western European nation to have done so.

Loefven's statement was warmly welcomed by the Palestinians. 

In a statement, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki voiced "thanks and appreciation for the Swedish position, which supports the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and an independent state."
Al-Maliki called on other European countries to follow suit in order to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East and to "send a strong message to Israel to stop destroying the peace process based on a two-state solution." 

The United States, Israel's ally, however, said it was a step too soon.

"We believe international recognition of a Palestinian state is premature," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

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