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Norway, Ireland and Spain say they are recognizing a Palestinian state in a historic move

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Norway, Ireland and Spain said Wednesday they recognize a Palestinian state in a historic move that drew condemnation from Israel and jubilation from the Palestinians. Israel immediately ordered the return of its ambassadors from Norway and Ireland.

It was a whirlwind cascade of announcements. First there was Norway, whose Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre declared that “there can be no peace in the Middle East without recognition”.

Gahr Støre said the Scandinavian country would officially recognize a Palestinian state starting May 28. “By recognizing a Palestinian state, Norway supports the Arab peace plan,” he said.

Several European Union countries have indicated in recent weeks that they plan to carry out such recognition, arguing that a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region. The decision could generate momentum for recognition of a Palestinian state by other EU countries and could prompt further action at the United Nations, deepening Israel’s isolation.

Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but echoes its approach, is a strong supporter of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Terrorism was committed by Hamas and militant groups that do not support a two-state solution and the State of Israel,” the Norwegian head of government said. “Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state. »

The move comes as Israeli forces carried out attacks to the northern and southern borders of the Gaza Strip in May, causing a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of people and severely limiting the flow of aid, thus increasing the risk of famine.

The Scandinavian country “will therefore consider Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails,” Gahr Støre said.

This development comes more than 30 years after the signing of the first Oslo Accord in 1993. Since then, “the Palestinians have made important steps towards a two-state solution,” the Norwegian government said.

It says the World Bank determined that a Palestinian state met the key criteria to function as a state in 2011 and that national institutions had been put in place to provide the population with important services.

“The war in Gaza and the continued expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank still mean that the situation in Palestine is more difficult than it has been in decades,” the Norwegian government said.

Also on Wednesday, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris made the announcement, saying it was a coordinated decision with Spain and Norway, “a historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine.” He said the move was aimed at helping resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution.

Harris said he believed other countries would join Norway, Spain and Ireland in recognizing a Palestinian state “in the coming weeks.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said his country would also recognize a Palestinian state on May 28. Sánchez, Spain’s socialist leader since 2018, made the expected announcement in the national parliament on Wednesday.

Sánchez spent months traveling countries in Europe and the Middle East to gather support for the recognition of a Palestinian state, as well as a possible ceasefire in Gaza. He has repeatedly stated that he is determined to make this decision.

“We know that this initiative will not bring back the past and the lives lost in Palestine, but we believe that it will give Palestinians two very important things for their present and their future: dignity and hope,” Sánchez said.

“This recognition is not against anyone, it is not against the Israeli people,” Sánchez added, while acknowledging that it will most likely cause diplomatic tensions with Tel Aviv. “It is an act in favor of peace, justice and moral coherence.”

Sánchez argued that the move was necessary to support the viability of a two-state solution which he said “is seriously threatened” by the war in Gaza.

“I have spent weeks and months speaking with leaders inside and outside the region and while it is clear that Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu does not have a peace plan for Palestine, even though the fight against the terrorist group Hamas is ongoing,” the Spanish leader said.

Earlier this month, Spanish Foreign Minister José Albares said he had informed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken of his government’s intention to recognize a Palestinian state.

These rapid developments have drawn condemnation from Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz ordered the Israeli ambassadors of Ireland and Norway to return to Israel immediately, as Norway says it will recognize a Palestinian state and Ireland was to do the same.

“Ireland and Norway intend to send a message today to the Palestinians and to the entire world: terrorism pays,” Katz said.

He said the recognition could hamper efforts to return Israeli hostages held in Gaza and make a ceasefire less likely by “rewarding jihadists from Hamas and Iran.” He also threatened to recall Israel’s ambassador to Spain if the country took a similar stance.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state and called on other countries to follow.

In a statement carried by the official Wafa news agency, Abbas said Norway’s move would enshrine “the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination” and support efforts to reach a two-state solution with Israel.


Associated Press writers Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, Jill Lawless in London and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed to this story.

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