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Israel officials snub Swedish foreign minister

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Israel officials snub Swedish foreign minister
Margot Wallström during a UN meeting. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
12:47 CET+01:00
No Israeli officials will meet Sweden's foreign minister during her trip to the region, a spokesman has said.

Erik Wirkensjö, spokesperson for Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, told the AFP news agency she had wanted to meet both Israeli and Palestinian officials during her visit from Thursday to Saturday.

“This time it was not possible to visit Israel,” said Wirkensjö.

Asked why there were no meetings planned, he said such questions must be “asked to the Israelis”.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon blamed “schedule problems” and declined to provide further details.

Earlier, Wallström told Swedish news agency TT: “I would have gladly seen myself travel to Israel as well, but unfortunately they do not welcome it.”

There is no international airport in the Palestinian territories. Wirkensjö declined to comment on whether Wallström would fly to an Israeli airport and then travel to occupied West Bank or go via Jordan. She was not denied entry to Israel, he said.

Wallström will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki during her trip.

In January, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Wallström would no longer be welcome in the country after she called for investigations into the killings of Palestinian assailants by Israeli forces.

Wallström had earlier said Israel must avoid “extrajudicial executions”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced her call as “outrageous”.

Israeli forces have faced accusations that they used excessive force in some cases in which knife-wielding Palestinians were killed.

A wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks erupted in October 2015, but the violence has greatly subsided in recent months.

Since October 2015, 242 Palestinians, 36 Israelis, two Americans, a Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese have been killed, according to an AFP count.

Most of the Palestinians were killed while carrying out attacks, according to Israeli authorities. Others were shot dead during protests or clashes, while some died in Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

Relations between Sweden and Israel have been frosty since Sweden recognized Palestine as a state shortly after Wallström became Foreign Minister in October 2014.

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