Sweden to become first EU country to officially recognize State of Palestine

A Palestinian flag and a Hamas flag (R) flutter atop the wreckage of a house, which witnesses said was destroyed during the seven-week Israeli offensive, in the east of Gaza City September 3, 2014. (Reuters/Suhaib Salem)
Sweden’s newly-formed center-left government is set to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, said Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. If Stockholm proceeds with the move it will be the first EU-member to officially endorse Palestinian statehood.

"The conflict between Israel can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law," Lofven said in the parliament as he made his first speech as PM on Friday.

The Social democrat leader added that the “two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence.”

“Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine,” he concluded.

If Stockholm officially proceeds with the motion, it will be the first member of the European Union to recognize Palestinian statehood. Some European countries have already recognized the state of Palestine, however they did so before entering the 28-member bloc.

Ireland and Cyprus have upgraded Palestinian representation in Dublin to full embassy status in recent years joining other European countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. (Reuters/laudio Bresciani)
In November 2012, the UN General Assembly voted 138 to nine, with 41 abstentions, to change Palestine's ‘entity’ status to ‘non-member observer state,’ with Sweden being among the nations to support the initiative.

Palestinian statehood is mainly opposed by Israel and its key ally the US.

In September, Sweden held government elections which resulted in a shift to the left after eight years of conservative rule.

On Friday, Lofven announced his new cabinet, with Green Party spokesperson Asa Romson as his Deputy and Social Democrat Margot Wallström as Foreign Minister.

The new PM promised to change Sweden’s foreign policy adding that Sweden won't seek membership of NATO, but won’t abstain from action if another country is attacked.

READ MORE: Power shifts to left after Sweden parliamentary election

The Palestinian authority is aiming to establish an independent state in the territories of the Gaza strip the West Bank, with the capital in East Jerusalem. However the boundaries of the latter two are not clearly identified.

Israel captured both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a result of the Six-Day War in the Middle East in 1967. Captured East Jerusalem was later annexed as part of Israel’s indivisible capital, though this move has never been recognized internationally.

Israel has been building settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights, which the international community has acknowledged to be illegal and hampering the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Israeli settlement issue was among the reasons that led to the derailment of the peace talks between the conflicting sides in April. In September, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would seek a UN Security Council resolution to demand a “firm timetable” to stop Israeli occupation.

READ MORE:Abbas demands Israelis stop occupation, ghettoization of Palestine