JERUSALEM (AP) – Sweden’s foreign minister visited Israel on Monday in an attempt to repair ties after years in which the two countries have disagreed over the conflict with the Palestinians.
Sweden’s Social Democratic-led government recognized Palestinian statehood in 2014, making it the first major European country to do so since the end of the Cold War. Its former foreign minister’s comments in support of the Palestinians drew angry responses from Israeli officials.
“We may not always agree, but good friends do not agree,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde told a news conference with her Israeli counterpart. “And I think it’s very important that you know that Sweden is a friend of Israel.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid thanked her for reiterating Sweden’s support for Israel and for Sweden’s efforts to combat anti – Semitism. The two spoke by telephone last month in the first conversation between their countries’ foreign ministers in seven years.
“I think because of the page we are turning here today, there will be a whole new book on friendship and cooperation,” Lapid said.
Linde began her journey with a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, where she placed a wreath in memory of the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.
On behalf of Sweden, I promise that we will say ‘Never again’ and mean it. We will continue to take action to combat anti-Semitism in all its forms to ensure that we never forget it, she says.
Sweden hosted world leaders at the International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance in Malmö, the country’s third largest city, last week.
Linde also met with Israel’s largely ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog, and she was expected to meet with Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank. During the press conference in Jerusalem, she reiterated Sweden’s support for a negotiated two-state solution.
Israel’s new government, a coalition of parties from across its political spectrum, has sought to improve relations with other countries following the long rule of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose nationalist policies strained relations with neighboring Jordan and some European countries, as well as with the Democratic Party. .
Israel’s current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is opposed to a Palestinian state, and previous leaders have said the international community should not recognize such a state until a final agreement has been negotiated between the two sides. There have been no material peace talks for over a decade.
Sweden’s former foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, who resigned in 2019, had repeatedly upset Israel.
Israel told her she was no longer welcome in 2016 after demanding investigations into alleged “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinians by Israeli forces during a wave of Palestinian attacks and clashes between the two sides.
A year earlier, Israel criticized comments she made in the aftermath of the Islamic State’s attack on Paris, in which she seemed to link radicalization among Muslims around the world to Palestinian despair.