September 6, 2019 / 1:33 PM / 17 days ago

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom to resign

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, who spearheaded the country’s feminist foreign policy when she took office in 2014, said on Friday she would resign from her post to spend more time with her family.

Wallstrom, a Social Democrat stalwart who has been a United Nations Special Representative dealing with sexual violence in conflicts and served two stints as a European Union commissioner, has been an unapologetic champion of human rights. She has also angered both Israel and Saudi Arabia during her time in office.

“I have put everything I have into the job of making Sweden safe, respected internationally and appreciated as a partner,” Wallstrom said in a statement. “It is time for me to spend more time with my husband, my children and my grandchildren.”

Wallstrom told Swedish radio she expected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to announce her successor on Tuesday when he makes his policy declaration as parliament resumes after summer break.

“It seems like an adequate point in time to also say who will succeed me,” she told the public broadcaster.

The government said Wallstrom had said she wanted to leave her post soon, but did not specify when she would go.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Stockholm after Sweden canceled a defense cooperation accord over human rights concerns. Wallstrom criticized as “medieval” the punishment of a liberal blogger by flogging.

Earlier that year, Wallstrom had to cancel a visit to Israel after the government’s recognition of a Palestinian state. Israel also withdrew its ambassador to Stockholm.

During Wallstrom’s tenure as foreign minister, Sweden has taken an increasingly active role in international peace initiatives, hosting ceasefire talks between Yemen’s warring parties in December last year.

In January, representatives of North Korea and the United States met in Sweden in an attempt to ease decades of tension on the Korean Peninsula.

When she took on the role, Wallstrom launched a specifically feminist foreign policy, focusing on women’s rights and representation and providing resources to promote gender equality and equal opportunity.

She also pushed for a high-profile role for Sweden on the U.N. Security Council, with the country sitting as a non-permanent member in 2017 and 2018.

Reporting by Simon Johnson and Anna Ringstrom; Editing by John Stonestreet, Frances Kerry and Hugh Lawson

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