STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Sweden’s new prime minister on Tuesday to further international support for his cause after the Nordic state infuriated Israel when it became the first major European country to recognize Palestine as a state.
Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Lofven used his inaugural address in parliament last year to announce that his country would recognize a Palestinian state, prompting Israel to call its ambassador back.
Sweden’s ties with Israel have nose dived since. Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called off a visit in January, officially due to scheduling difficulties but media reported that Israel would not have given her an official welcome.
Sweden’s government, aiming for a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council, is trying to make its international mark with calls for a feminist foreign policy and criticism of Israel.
Most western European countries have yet to give official recognition, as has the United States, although the U.N. General Assembly approved de facto recognition in 2012. A total of 135 countries recognize Palestine, including several east European nations that did so before they joined the EU.
Bilateral deals would be signed during Abbas’ visit, Wallstrom said, and peace negotiations would also be pushed along.
“The visit also gives us an opportunity to talk about what we think that Palestine can contribute, in the hope of resuming peace negotiations,” Wallstrom was quoted in Aftonbladet newspaper as saying.
Palestinians seek statehood in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capital. They have sought to side-step stalled peace talks by lobbying foreign powers to recognize their sovereignty claim.
Their resolution in the U.N. Security Council calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state failed in December and have also moved to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Reporting by Simon Johnson and Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Louise Ireland