Sunday

23rd Feb 2020

Swedish-Israeli relations continue to deteriorate

  • Sweden has roundly denied having political contact with Hamas (Photo: EUobserver)

Relations between Sweden, the EU presidency-in-office, and Israel have gone from bad to worse after Israel accused Sweden of breaking an EU ban on contact with Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the allegations at a meeting with Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos 10 days ago, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

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Sweden on Monday (21 September) reportedly summoned Israel's ambassador in Stockholm, Benny Dagan, to clarify Mr Netanyahu's remarks and issued a robust denial.

"The government of Sweden has no political contact with Hamas. We are acting in accord with all EU policies in this area and allegations about such contacts have no substance," it said in a statement.

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad on 14 September told EUobserver that high-ranking officials from EU countries, including people "very close" to EU leaders and foreign ministers, meet with the militant group on a weekly basis.

He mentioned visits from France, Spain, Germany, Italy, the UK and Luxembourg, but not Sweden.

The EU in 2006 formally suspended high-level talks with Hamas, which it calls a terrorist entity.

Swedish-Israeli relations already suffered in August, when Sweden declined Israeli demands to censure a Swedish newspaper article accusing Israeli soldiers of selling the bodily organs of dead Palestinians.

Sweden's chancellor of justice, Goran Lambertz, on Monday (21 September), quashed an enquiry into whether the organ-harvesting article incited racial hatred.

The Nordic country has also criticised Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories and supported an EU freeze on plans to upgrade diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

Spain, which takes over the rotating EU presidency in January, has in recent times been more Israel-friendly than Sweden.

Spanish Prime Minister Jorge Luis Zapatero is to visit Jerusalem on 14 October. And foreign minister Moratinos has good contacts with the Israeli administration following his work as the EU envoy for the Middle East peace process from 1996 to 2003.

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