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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Swedish FM in visit to Israel: Sweden is a friend of Israel

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Israel and Sweden have a chance to strengthen their relations, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his counterpart from Stockholm, Ann Linde, said in Jerusalem on Monday, during the first visit to Israel by a Swedish foreign minister in a decade.

“Sweden is a friend of Israel,” Linde said.

The Swedish foreign minister added, “We both see a real opportunity to deepen our dialogue further and develop longstanding cooperation when it comes to innovation, culture, and trade, as well as fighting antisemitism…. I also learned Foreign Minister Lapid is a champion of women’s rights, and as a feminist foreign minister in a feminist government with a feminist foreign policy, I see here more opportunity for cooperation.”

Linde was the first Swedish foreign minister to visit Israel since Sweden recognized a Palestinian state in 2014, sparking a diplomatic row and downgrading relations below the level of foreign ministers.

Lapid commended Linde for making an effort to bringing the countries back together.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde during her visit in the Knesset (credit: JORGE NOVOMINSKI)

“In our conversations, we agreed friends don’t have to agree on everything,” Lapid said. “I appreciated what you told me, that behind the criticism lies a deep support for Israel’s security and the right of Jews to establish a state in our historic homeland.”

Lapid said that he and Linde share a “common desire to develop, advance and realize the economic and social potential between the countries and cultivate and grow connections in technology and trade.”

“I believe that because of the page we are turning here today, there will be a whole new book of friendship and cooperation,” he stated.

Linde “reaffirmed Sweden’s commitment to the security of Israel,” adding that she and Lapid discussed the Iranian threat and other regional developments.

She congratulated Israel for the Abraham Accords, peace and normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states, saying, “Sweden supports efforts at dialogue and understanding in the region. Normalization between Israel and Arab countries is truly positive for peace and security.”

However, Linde added that Sweden still wants to see a two-state solution and the end of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

She also mentioned last week’s Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, thanking Israel for its support and participation. President Isaac Herzog took part in the conference via live video.

Lapid spoke of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis in Hungary, including Lapid’s father, former justice minister Tommy Lapid.

Linde also visited Yad Vashem, which she said was “painful but crucial.”

“On behalf of Sweden, I promise that we say ‘Never again’ and mean it,” she tweeted. “We will continue to take actions to combat antisemitism in all its forms and to make sure we never forget.”

Earlier, Linde visited Herzog at the President’s Residence.

The president thanked Linde for hosting the Malmö Forum, stressing the need for international unity in fighting antisemitism.

Herzog “emphasized the importance of the indisputable fact of Israel’s unique status in the family of nations as the state of the Jewish People, which maintains equality between all its citizens and is a liberal democracy,” his spokesman said.

The president also highlighted the Abraham Accords and encouraged Sweden to actively support efforts for peace and normalization with more states in the region.

The 2014 diplomatic dispute between Israel and Sweden was exacerbated when Sweden’s foreign minister at the time Margot Wallström accused Israel of “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinians. Lapid, then leader of an opposition party, accused Wallström of antisemitism, at a pro-Israel rally in Stockholm in 2016.

Israel recalled its ambassador from Stockholm for a month, and there was no contact between the countries on the ministerial level until this year.

But in the past two years, Sweden has made an effort to improve relations, including speaking in favor of convening the EU-Israel Association Council and supporting Israeli candidacy to UN bodies.

Those efforts culminated with Lapid and Linde meeting at the sidelines of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council in July, where Linde expressed her willingness to improve relations between the countries.

Following the first official conversation between Israeli and Swedish foreign ministers in seven years in September, Sweden announced that it would boycott the anti-Israel Durban IV Conference at the UN.

Ties between Israel and Sweden also fit with Lapid’s stated goal of strengthening Israel’s ties to liberal, democratic countries.


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