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Palestinians hail Swedish move on statehood as 'courageous'

Oct. 4, 2014 12:03 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 6, 2014 12:16 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (AFP) -- Sweden's decision to recognize a Palestinian state is "courageous," senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said Friday, calling on other EU states to follow suit.

"We salute the announcement by the Swedish prime minister," said Saeb Erakat in the West Bank administrative capital of Ramallah.

"We hope that all countries of the European Union will take the same courageous and remarkable decision ... as there is no reason not to recognize the Palestinian state."

Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, said "the time has come for the entire world to recognise the Palestinian state."

And foreign minister Riyad al-Malki welcomed what he called Sweden's "historic" commitment to freedom, dignity and human rights.

Earlier, Sweden's new prime minister said in his inaugural address to parliament that "a two-state solution requires mutual recognition and the will to co-exist peacefully."

This should take place with respect for the "legitimate demands of the Palestinians and the Israelis as regards their right to self-determination and security," Stefan Loefven added.

Although more than 134 countries around the world currently recognize the State of Palestine, the majority of Western Europe and North American have refused to do so out of deference to Israel.

Sweden's shift in position, however, suggests the possibility that others in Western Europe may follow suit, particularly given widespread anger at Israel's massive assault on Gaza over the summer that left more than 2,000 dead.

Loefven's Social Democratic-Green Party coalition -- which formed a minority government on Friday -- is more supportive of demands for a Palestinian state than the previous centre-right administration.

Both the Greens and the Social Democrats opposed a decision by former foreign minister Carl Bildt to not give Swedish support to a UN vote recognising Palestine.

The Social Democrats, the largest party in the Swedish parliament, wrote in their election manifesto that "Israel's war crimes must be investigated and the occupation of Gaza lifted".

The party added that "Sweden and the rest of the world must actively support its (Palestine's) work towards reconciliation."

The prime minister did not specify whether the policy would be submitted to a vote in parliament.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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