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Sweden to recognize Palestine statehood, new prime minister says

Sweden will become the first major European nation to recognize Palestinian statehood, newly sworn-in Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced Friday.

In unveiling his Cabinet appointments and governing priorities to Parliament, Lofven said recognizing the state of Palestine would bolster the objective of defining two separate but peacefully coexisting states and ending decades of hostility between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law," Lofven said. "A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine."

Lofven, whose Social Democrats have united with Greens to form a left-leaning government after elections last month, did not specify when Sweden would join more than 130 other countries that recognize Palestine as a state.

Sweden's allies within the 28-nation European Union have mostly followed the U.S. lead in refraining from recognizing Palestine before its borders are defined through negotiations with Israel. Some newer members of the EU, including Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, recognized Palestine during the Cold War when they were aligned with the Soviet Union.

Nael Touqan, head of the Palestinian Association of Stockholm, told the Local news website that he hoped Sweden's decision inspires other Western leaders to recognize Palestine.

There was no immediate Israeli reaction, as the government and media were observing the Jewish Sabbath and Yom Kippur.

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