Sweden, Palestinians Upgrade Ties With More Aid, Embassy

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -

The Palestinians will open an embassy in Stockholm on Tuesday night, cementing closer ties just months after Sweden became the first western European Union country to recognize Palestine as a state.

Visiting Sweden for the first time since recognition in October, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on other countries to follow Sweden’s lead.

“Your recognition … should push forward negotiations in the peace process,” Abbas said.

Relations between Sweden and Israel have nose-dived since the initial announcement and Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called off a visit to Israel in January. Israel temporarily recalled its ambassador.

Swedish Prime Minsiter Stefan Lofven said Palestine would open an embassy in Stockholm immediately. In most Western European countries, the Palestinians have a diplomatic mission, not a full embassy.

He promised more aid for “Palestine” but said he wanted progress on reform.

“There are challenges: we must help one another to fight corruption, improve respect for human rights and, of course, continue the state building process,” Lofven said.

A deal signed by the two leaders will see Sweden raise aid by 1.5 billion crowns ($179.74 million) over the next five years.

Lofven used his inaugural address in parliament last year to fulfill a long-standing promise by his Social Democrat party to recognize a Palestinian state.