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Spain, Ireland and Norway recognise Palestinian state

By AFP

May 28, 2024 11:44 AM


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Spain, Ireland and Norway are formally recognising a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a decision slammed by Israel as a "reward" for Hamas more than seven months into the devastating Gaza war.

The three European countries believe their initiative has strong symbolic impact, which is likely to encourage others to follow suit.

"Recognition of the State of Palestine is not only a matter of historic justice... It is also an essential requirement if we are all to achieve peace," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said before meeting his cabinet.

The move, he said, was "not against anyone, least of all Israel".

"It is the only way to move towards the solution that we all recognise as the only possible way to achieve a peaceful future -- that of a Palestinian state living side-by-side with the state of Israel in peace and security."

Sanchez also said the decision reflected Spain's "outright rejection of Hamas, which is against the two-state solution" and whose October 7 attacks led to the Gaza war.

The plans were unveiled last week in a coordinated announcement by the prime ministers of the three countries.

Both the Spanish and Irish cabinets were meeting to formally approve the step on Tuesday morning, while Norway informed Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa its recognition would also take effect the same day.

Entering the cabinet meeting, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said it was "an important moment".

He said it sent "a signal to the world is that there are practical actions you can take as a country to help keep the hope... of a two-state solution alive".

- 'Incitement to genocide' -

The decision has provoked a furious response from Israel and further exacerbated diplomatic tensions, notably with Spain.

Last week, Sanchez's far-left deputy Yolanda Diaz hailed the move saying: "We cannot stop. Palestine will be free from the river to the sea", which Israel's Madrid envoy denounced as a "clear call for the elimination of Israel".

The slogan refers to the British mandate borders of Palestine, which stretched from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean before Israel was created in 1948.

On Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz went even further.

"Sanchez, as long as you don't fire your deputy and you recognise a Palestinian state, you are participating in the incitement to commit genocide and war crimes against the Jewish people," he wrote on X.

On Sunday, Katz posted a video on X splicing footage of the October 7 attacks with flamenco dancing, saying: "Sanchez: Hamas thanks you for your service".

Spain condemned the post as "scandalous and revolting".

On Monday, Katz ordered the first of a series of "preliminary punitive measures", ordering Spain's Jerusalem consulate to stop offering consular services to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

- Differences within the EU -

Recognising Palestinian statehood has provoked sharp disagreement within the 27-nation European Union.

For decades, formal recognition of a Palestinian state has been seen as the endgame of a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Washington and most Western European nations have said they are willing to one day recognise Palestinian statehood, but not before agreement on thorny issues like the status of Jerusalem and final borders.

The Gaza bloodshed has revived calls for Palestinians to be given their own state.

Ever more European countries are expressing a desire to do so, although others remain reticent.

France, for example, believes it is not the right time to do so, while Germany only envisages recognition following negotiations between the two sides.

Tuesday's move will mean 145 of the United Nations' 193 member states now recognise Palestinian statehood.

In 2014, Sweden became the first EU member to recognise a Palestinian state.

It followed six other European countries that took the step before joining the bloc -- Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

On October 7, Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel in an assault that killed more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza. The Israeli army says 37 of them are dead.

Israel's relentless retaliatory offensive has killed more than 36,000 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.


AFP


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