Sweden's new center-left government will recognize the state of Palestine in a move that will make it the first major European country to take the step, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Friday.
The U.N. General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012, but the European Union, and most EU countries, have yet to give official recognition.
“The conflict between Israel can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law,” Lofven said during his inaugural address in parliament.
“A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine," Lofven said.
For the Palestinians, Sweden's move will be a welcome boost for its ambitions.
The United States said says the new Swedish government's recognition of a Palestinian state is "premature."
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday the U.S. supports Palestinian statehood, but it "can only come through a negotiated outcome" by both parties.
Psaki said Israelis and Palestinians must be the ones "to agree on the terms on how they live in the future two states."
Israel, the United States and the EU maintain that an independent Palestinian state should only emerge through a negotiated process.
May encourage other countries
With its reputation as an honest broker in international affairs and with an influential voice in EU foreign policy, the decision may well make other countries sit up and pay attention at a time when the Palestinians are threatening unilateral moves toward statehood.
Within the EU, some countries, such as Hungary, Poland and Slovakia recognize Palestine, but they did so before joining the 28-member bloc.
If the center-left government fulfills its plans, Sweden would be the first country to recognize Palestine while being a member of the European Union.
The Social Democrats and Greens hold a minority of seats in parliament and the incoming center-left government is likely to be one of Sweden's weakest for decades.
The former center-right government would not recognize Palestine as the Palestinian authorities did not control their territory.
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in East Jerusalem.
While Gaza's boundaries are clearly defined, the precise territory of what would constitute Palestine in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will only be determined via negotiations with Israel on a two-state solution, negotiations that are currently suspended.