Sweden and Israel put spat behind them

Relations between Israel and Sweden have thawed, after rows over military exercises and Sweden's welcoming of a member of Palestine's Hamas government, Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson said on Saturday.

“Relations between the two countries are good”, Eliasson told Swedish state radio.

In recent weeks, though, Israeli-Swedish relations had soured to the point that one Israeli spokesman described Sweden as the most anti-Israeli country in Europe.

Two decisions by the Swedish government had irritated Israel.

First, Sweden pulled out of European military aviation exercises on the Italian island of Sardinia from May 8 to25 because of Israeli participation, provoking a vehement reaction from the Israeli embassy in Stockholm.

Then a minister from Palestine’s governing Hamas party was granted a visa to visit Sweden at the invitation of some Swedish parliamentarians.

The European Union, Israel and the United States all blacklist Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

So when the party’s minister for refugee affairs, Atef Edwane, was received by politicians from Sweden’s governing Social Democratic party, the embassy again reacted angrily.

On Saturday though, Eliasson said that he had spoken cordially with Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

“We have decided to put this affair behind us,” he announced, adding that Livni had dismissed the spokesman’s earlier comments as unauthorised and unplanned.