The Swedish government became the biggest European nation to recognise the state of Palestine Thursday — and while the move made Israel furious — it took the opportunity to make a joke about IKEA furniture.
“Today the government takes the decision to recognise the state of Palestine,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement in the Dagens Nyheter daily.
The Israeli foreign minister called it a “very unfortunate decision,” Haaretz reported.
In his swearing-in earlier this month, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven pledged his government would eventually recognise a Palestinian state. Soon after the Israeli government found out, it summoned the Swedish ambassador to protest the move, according to Haaretz.
Sweden went forward however, making the formal announcement on Thursday “as an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination,” according to a statement.
“We hope that we can make the parties a little less unequal,” Wallstrom told CNN. “[and] that we might inject some new dynamics into the suspended peace talks.”
While the U.S. and European powers have so far refrained from recognising Palestinian independence, they have become increasingly critical of Israeli settlement construction. The 28-nation European Union has urged that negotiations to achieve a two-state solution resume as soon as possible.
In a symbolic move, British lawmakers earlier this month voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state.
“The Swedish government needs to understand that relations in the Middle East are more complicated than a piece of furniture from IKEA that you assemble at home,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Haaretz, “and should act with responsibility and sensitivity.”
In response to Lieberman’s comments, Wallstrom quipped (via NPR): “I will be happy to send Israel Foreign Minister Lieberman an IKEA flat pack to assemble. He’ll see it requires a partner, cooperation and a good manual.”
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