Bildt makes shock Palestinian envoy move

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has angered his coalition partners by unilaterally recognising the Palestinian representative in Stockholm as ambassador.

Bildt makes shock Palestinian envoy move

“This means a significant step forward for us, which we appreciate hugely,” said the newly appointed ambassador, Hala Husni Fariz, to news agency TT.

Bildt received the new ambassador on Thursday, making her the first Palestinian representative to be formally welcomed at a ceremony at the foreign ministry.

Fariz, born in 1955, is the highest ranking Palestinian representative in Sweden since the delegation arrived earlier this year.

According to Fariz, the Swedish government has been an important aid giver in the development of the Palestinian state and institutions as well as having made a clear stand on wanting a peaceful and fair two-state solution in the region.

”This is the climax of a long relationship with the Swedish government and we appreciate the support and help that we have received,” she said to TT.

According to a statement from the foreign ministry the upgrade of the Palestinian representation follows ”great advances made in the development of the Palestinian state”.

”It is now important that the parties resume negotiations leading to a two-state solution and the creation of a democratic and sustainable Palestinian state, side by side in peace and security with Israel,” said Bildt after the meeting with the new ambassador.

In two weeks the UN general assembly will gather in New York and the Palestinians are anticipated to demand independence through the representation of president Mahmoud Abbas.

If the question is raised on the security council, the US is expected to veto the demand.

Fariz did not want to comment on what the new status of the Palestinian representation in Sweden will mean to the UN process.

”It is, of course, up to Sweden to make their own decision,” she said to TT.

Spokesperson on foreign policy for the Liberal party, Fredrik Malm, said on Thursday that he regrets Bildt’s decision to upgrade the Palestinian representation in Sweden.

”It is regrettable that Carl Bildt has made this decision and it is unfortunate that it happens just at the time when the UN is set to discuss the recognition of the Palestinian state,” he said to TT on Thursday.

According to Malm, Sweden should take a more balanced stance in the Middle Eastern conflict and work for a two-state solution and a peaceful settlement of affairs.

Malm also says that the decision has been taken by Bildt without consulting the other government parties.

”Not that I am aware of anyway. I just found out,” he told TT.

The spokesperson for foreign policy for the Christian Democrats, Désirée Pethrus, is also surprised.

“I am surprised that the decision for the change comes now when the issue is such a hot potato in the UN,” she told TT.

According to Fariz, however, the timing for the upgrade has nothing to do with the closeness to the UN talks.

“We were informed of this step a few months ago,” she said to TT.

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Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat

The Israeli navy intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat bent on breaching its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, the second in less than a week, the military said on Saturday.

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat
Photo: TT

“The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law,” the military said in a statement, before the vessel, named Freedom for Gaza and carrying 12 people, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The (military) clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod,” the statement said.

The people on board were taken for “further inquiry.”

The organisers of the flotilla said the boat, which was carrying medical supplies, was intercepted in international waters.

“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” they said in a statement.

“This is a demand that the eleven years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last.”

Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organisers said.

Four boats left from Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas where 80 percent of the two million population are dependent on aid.