Debate on the foreign policy in the Riksdag. Foreign Minister Carl Bildt down to the left. Photo: Riksdagen

Divided government pressured on Palestine

Politics | 2012-02-15

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Today, foreign minister Carl Bildt presented the foreign policy declaration in the Riksdag. This was followed by an unusually exciting debate. The foreign policy debates in the Riksdag are normally not known for being entertaining with a strong tradition of national unity in foreign policy issues.

There were no surprises in the foreign policy declaration itself. One thing that should be mentioned though is that it explicitly mentions the two Swedish journalists who are jailed in Ethiopia. According to the declaration the two journalists 'should be set free'.

Another thing was that the government is going to appoint a special Syrian ambassador responsible for contacts with the democratic opposition in the country.

The issue that was most intensively discussed was the question whether Sweden should recognize Palestine as a sovereign state.

Divided government criticised

The Social Democrats took the opportunity and accused the government of being vague in the issue of Palestine. The government is in fact divided on the issue with the Centre Party being for recognising Palestine and mostly the Liberal People's Party against.

Urban Ahlin. Photo:

The Social Democratic Spokesperson Urban Ahlin:

"This year's foreign policy declaration has exceptionally vague paragraphs on Israel and Palestine, since the government is divided on the issue. Our line is clear - a two-state solution is preferrable no matter what Israel says".

Fredrik Malm of the Liberal People's Party was firmly against a Swedish recognition of Palestine before a peace is settled between the two parties.

"The precondition for a long-term sustainable two-state solution is a peace treaty", said Malm.

Urban Ahlin from the Social Democrats claimed that the Liberal Party's argument of a peace treaty as a precondition was like "a hole in the head" (stupid). Ahlin argued that this would in practice give Israel a veto right to a Swedish recognition of Palestine.

Bildt: Israel has the ultimate power on the ground

Carl Bildt, photo: Tommie
Ullman/Stockholm News

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tried to ease the tension by referring to the traditional criteria for recognizing a state: i) a territory; ii) a population and iii) a government that controls the territory. Bildt argued that the third criterion is not fulfilled and that a recognition would be merely symbolic.

Moreover, Bildt accused the opposition of ignoring the brutal fact that Israel controls the territory.

"You downplay and trivialise the brutal reality of occupation. Do not believe that there is a state on the Palestinian side that has sovereignty".

Urban Ahlin from the Social Democrats accused Bildt of being too passive and allowing the 'hawkish' Liberal People's party to influence the government's stance in the issue. But at the same time, Ahlin noted that Bildt unlike the Liberal Party referred to the three criteria for a state.

"Now, Carl Bildt does not condition a recognition with a peace treaty any more. This is a new line from the government", Ahlin said.

Unity on Syria

There was clear unity among all parties in the Riksdag in one issue. All condemned the violence in Syria and demanded that President Assad should step down.


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