Stockholm: Sweden pledged to formally recognize the State of Palestine, setting itself up to become the first major western European nation to do so.

“The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved by a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with the principles of international law," Prime Minister Stefan Loefven said on Friday in his government declaration speech in Stockholm. Both Israel and Palestine have “legitimate demands for national sovereignty and security" and therefore Sweden “will recognize the State of Palestine," he said.

The recognition comes as Palestinian authorities are seeking to increase pressure on Israel to negotiate an end to a conflict.

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to recognize a de facto state of Palestine in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Since then, the US-backed peace talks have broken down and a 50-day conflict in Gaza left more than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis dead.

Loefven’s minority government of Social Democrats and the Green Party ousted Fredrik Reinfeldt’s four-party coalition in 14 September elections. He on Friday also named Margot Wallstroem, a former first vice-president of the European Commission, as foreign minister.

The premier will now talk to the other parties in parliament, he said.

“I’m sure there will be both negative and positive reactions," Loefven told reporters today. “It won’t happen today or tomorrow but we are preparing to recognize Palestine. We would like to discuss this further with other parties but we believe that it is important to take this stand." Bloomberg

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