Persson, who is in Jerusalem to attend the inauguration of Yad Vashem, the new Holocaust museum, met Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in what Expressen described as his “bunker-like headquarters”.
The paper noted the “obligatory handshake” for the photographers before Persson was whisked off to meet president Moshe Katzav and former prime minister and Nobel peace prize winner Shimon Peres.
After the meetings, Persson told the media that Sweden could begin to get more involved in the peace process now that it is slowly moving forward again. News agency TT asked the prime minister what Sweden could actually offer.
“I don’t want to go into that today,” he replied. “But we can do what we’ve done through the years, to offer opportunities here and there to take forward ideas and offer meeting places.”
Shimon Peres agreed, saying he believed that Sweden “could play a role as it has done in the past”.
According to Swedish Radio, Persson expressed to both Sharon and Peres Sweden’s disapproval of Jerusalem’s controversial “security wall”.
“Both strenuously defended it,” said Persson afterwards.
“Their argument is: one, it is temporary, and two, it works and provides security. Our objections are that it is contrary to international law and we don’t believe it provides security.”
Persson added that he saw the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas, which is standing in the summer’s parliamentary election, as one of the biggest threats to the peace process.
“If it results in Hamas gaining a dominant influence – yes, then the peace process is in trouble,” he said.
Foreign ministers and prime ministers from over 40 countries, as well as UN secretary general Kofi Annan, are attending the inauguration of Yad Vashem.