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Abbas' official visit to Stockholm stirs debate

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Abbas' official visit to Stockholm stirs debate
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was on an official visit to Sweden on Tuesday. Photo: Issam Rimawi/AP Photo/Xinhua
05:57 CET+01:00
Israel issued sharp criticism of Sweden as Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Stockholm for an official visit on Tuesday, tainted by a diplomatic row following the recognition of Palestine.

Tensions have been tight between Sweden and Israel ever since the Nordic nation's decision to recognize Palestine in late October. The move caused Israel to recall its ambassador to Stockholm, although he returned a month later.

Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, who last month postponed a trip to Israel, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet of plans to sign a five-year partnership agreement between Sweden and Palestine, focusing on human rights, democracy, equality, environmental aspects and entrepreneurship.

She added: “But the visit also gives us an opportunity to talk about what we think Palestine can offer, in the hope of resuming peace negotiations.”

“We think this may help create some hope for the Palestinians who have so far had to choose between rather a hopeless situation where you cannot see a future or the path of violence. We need to open a political route between these two alternatives. It is important for the region if young Palestinians actually feel that there is a future.”

The Local speaks to Margot Wallström about her decision to recognize Palestine

But Israel's Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman replied in an interview with The Local: “The recognition of Palestine, including the additional Swedish steps and policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians has not created a better atmosphere between Israel and Sweden.”

“We were not consulted on this matter, and it is obvious that the recognition came just a few weeks after the end of a bloody rain of fire on Israel from Gaza.”

“If anything, the Swedish recognition is a tailwind to the ongoing Palestinian efforts not to hold direct negotiations with Israel.”

Mahmoud Abbas, who aalso met with Sweden's archbishop Antje Jackelén on Monday, was on Tuesday set to meet with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström and King Carl Gustaf.

According to the Palestinian Authority, around 135 countries have now recognized the state of Palestine. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in spring 2014 and a bloody war in Gaza erupted just a few months later.

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