PA Opens Stockholm Embassy as Sweden Announces $180 Million in Aid

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Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Loefven (R) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference in the Bella Venezia room at the Rosenbad government office in Stockholm on February 10, 2015. AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand

Published Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday inaugurated the new headquarters of the Palestinian embassy in Sweden.

Sweden, meanwhile, announced a multi-million-euro Palestinian aid package Tuesday as Abbas made his first visit to Stockholm since 2009.

Sweden became the first major Western European country to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in October, but Prime Minister Stefan Loefven stressed that the recognition came with responsibilities.

"According to us Palestine is now a state. Our expectations of Palestine and their leadership will therefore increase," Loefven told reporters during Abbas' visit to Stockholm.

"There is no contradiction between keeping good relations with Palestine and keeping good relations with Israel," Loefven added.

Sweden's move to recognize Palestine last year prompted the Zionist state to temporarily withdraw its Stockholm ambassador as relations between the two countries cooled.

Loefven announced a new aid program to the Palestinians worth 1.5 billion kronor ($180 million, 159 million euros).

The deal stretches until 2019 and will go toward projects to fight corruption and promote gender equality and human rights.

Loefven said both Palestine and Israel must be "ready to compromise" and that Sweden would support Palestine in "setting a regional example when it comes to women's rights."

Abbas, who arrived late Monday, thanked Sweden for the aid package and expressed the wish that "other countries would also recognize Palestine as a state."

"I am reaching out to Israel because we cannot achieve peace if we don't sit down for negotiations," Abbas said.

"It would be better for both sides to sit around the negotiation table to obtain two states, one for the Palestinians to live side by side with Israel in security and stability," he added, urging Israel to accept the Arab Peace Initiative of 2003, proposed by Saudi Arabia.

Abbas and his Fatah party are seeking a two-state solution with Israel.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

In 1948, with the end of the British mandate in Palestine, a new state — Israel — was declared inside historical Palestine.

As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and cities were razed to the ground by invading Zionist forces.

Israel then occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.

In 1988, Palestinian leaders led by Arafat declared the existence of a State of Palestine inside the 1967 borders and the State's belief "in the settlement of international and regional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the charter and resolutions of the United Nations."

Heralded as a "historic compromise," the move implied that Palestinians would agree to control only 22 percent of historical Palestinian territories in exchange for peace with Israel. It is believed the PA now has control over only 17 percent after massive Israeli settlement building,l.

It is worth noting that numerous Palestinian factions, including Hamas, as well as pro-Palestine advocates support a one-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians would be treated equally, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable and that it would mean recognizing a state of Israel on territories seized forcefully by Zionists before 1967.

They also believe that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won't solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.

Abbas’ visit comes a month after a senior Israeli official said Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem was not welcome for official visits to the country.

Wallstroem last month postponed a trip to the Israeli-occupied territories amid Israeli press reports that her counterpart Avigdor Lieberman did not want to meet her.

Ahead of Abbas' visit, Israel's Stockholm Ambassador Isaac Bachman described the Palestinian leader's diplomatic efforts as a "diversion" from direct talks with the Israeli authorities.

Following a series of votes on the issue in EU nations which have enraged Israel, the European Parliament in December overwhelmingly backed the recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders "in principle."

The non-binding motion, a watered down version of an original motion which had urged EU member states to recognize a Palestinian state unconditionally, said the parliament "supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced."

European politicians have become more active in pushing for a sovereign Palestine since the collapse of US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in April, and an ensuing conflict in Gaza, where more than 2,000 Palestinians, at least 70 percent of them civilians, were killed this summer, as well as 66 soldiers and six civilians on the Israeli side.

EU's vote follows Sweden's decision in October to recognize Palestine and non-binding votes since then by parliaments in Britain, France, Ireland, and Spain in favor of recognition demonstrated growing European impatience with the stalled peace process.

According to the PA, around 135 countries have recognized Palestine as a state within the 1967 borders including several that are now EU members.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

Comments

This is beautiful. Sweden has long been a hunanitarian, just and peaceful country. This move among many that Sweden has initiated plays a far larger role than it might seem in the process of a solution towards the Israeli/Palestinian unjust and elongated conflict. Sweden will be remembered in history for this and will shine brighter than today.

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