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MOSCOW, October 31. /TASS/. A decision to recognize the Palestinian state that has been taken by Sweden, the first EU member-state to do so, has emblematic significance for the Palestinians and it will bolster their positions at the negotiations with Israel, Russian experts say.
Still they say the Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement depends to a much greater degree on Israel now and the Israeli government occupies a tough stance.
A fragile status quo in relations between Israel and Palestine has been jeopardized in the wake of the Israeli plans to step up construction of more than a thousand units of housing in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians believe to be the capital of their future state.
Reaction on the part of the Palestinian leadership was almost immediate. The Palestinians demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that was convened on Wednesday at Jordan’s initiative. In the course of discussions, the critics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set the tune. The Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, too, criticized Israel’s action in East Jerusalem and the West Bank of the Jordan where the Israelis are building new settlements.
On this background, the Palestinian side is getting an increasingly broader support from the international public opinion. On Thursday, Sweden said it had recognized the Palestinian National Authority as a sovereign state.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the Palestinian Authority was meeting the international criteria for statehood in spite of the fact the government there does not fully control the territory, which in its turn does not have the internationally recognized boundaries.
Wallstrom cited earlier precedents when Sweden recognized state sovereignty of other regions in similar conditions — Croatia in 1992 and Kosovo in 2008.
The Israelis responded by calling off their ambassador from Stockholm.
Several days prior to that, the upper house of Irish parliament issued a formal recognition to the Palestinian autonomy by passing an appropriate resolution. Senator Averil Power, who initiated the resolution, set the adoption of the document would build up pressure on Israel and force it to support the peace process.
British parliament endorsed recognition of the State of Palestine and passed a resolution on the issue. However, parliamentary decisions are not mandatory for the national governments in the case of both Ireland and Britain.
UN General Assembly granted Palestine the status of an observer state in 2012. More than 130 nations have recognized its sovereignty to date but the majority of Western countries deny this recognition to the Palestinians, they peg a possibility of this move to the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
Since Sweden is the first member-state of the EU that has officially recognized Palestine, its decision is a highly emblematic step important for the future of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement, Dr. Irina Zvyagelskaya, a leading researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences told TASS.
“There’s been no practical success at these talks and that is why Sweden’s demarche is all the more so important - it may speed up settlement of the problem,” she said.
Dr. Zvyagelskaya believes Sweden’s step also proves that the Palestinian-Israeli problem has not receded into the shadow amid the mounting tensions around Syria, Iraq and the Islamic State (Isis) on the whole.
Europe has always occupied a balanced enough position on the issue, she said. Not only because the EU has interests in Arab countries but also because millions of immigrants from the Arab Middle East supporting the Palestinians live in European countries.
“Recognition of Palestine by Sweden is a good thing for Palestinians who can now make references to the fact but unfortunately it doesn’t make any practical contribution to peace settlement,” Dr. Zvyagelskaya said. “And the Middle East is doomed to having tensions unless the Palestinian state is set up and the problem is firmly settled.”
She said Israel’s position at this stage cannot be called fruitful, as the Benjamin Netanyahu government is in essence doing everything in its power to put off a solution based on the ‘two states, two nations’ principle.
“Very much depends on Israel right now but I heard it even from the Israelis that Netanyahu is a very difficult man to deal with,” Dr. Zvyagelskaya said.
Sweden’s decision speaks of a serious change in European public opinion, Viktor Nadein-Rayevsky, a senior research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations told TASS. Other steps on the part of European countries in the same direction should be expected now, even though the EU does not have a unified stance on the problem.
Nadein-Rayevsky recalled Israel occupies a tough position as it believes recognition of the Palestinian state is inadmissible until the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian agreements concerning the status of Jerusalem, borders, and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
He links the European countries’ pro-Palestinian sympathies to the presence of a big number of descendents from Arab countries in Europe and the influence of left-wing parties that have traditional pro-Palestinian tendencies.
One more contributing factor is the intransigence of the incumbent Israeli government that continues building Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. In this situation, Netanyahu’s position meets with condemnation not only from Russia and the EU but also from the U.S.
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