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Spain, Ireland and Norway announce they will recognise the State of Palestine

A Palestinian flag painted on a wall full of bullet holes is seen in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, 2023.
A Palestinian flag painted on a wall full of bullet holes is seen in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, 2023. Copyright Mohammed Zaatari/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Mohammed Zaatari/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
By Joshua AskewMared Gwyn Jones
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The countries say the move is aimed at injecting new momentum into efforts to secure long-lasting peace in the war-torn region.

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Three European states — Spain, Ireland and Norway — have announced they will formally recognise the Palestinian state, seven months after the Gaza war broke out. 

The highly symbolic move was coordinated between the three nations on Wednesday, following months of negotiations between a group of European countries willing to take the step.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez — who had vowed to recognise Palestine by June — announced Spain would recognise the State of Palestine next Tuesday, 28 May. 

"The time to move from words to action has come," Sánchez told the Spanish House of Representatives. "To tell the millions of Palestinians that are suffering that we stand with them, that there's hope, and that despite the walls that are erected, the villages that are bombed and the illegal settlements that are built, the land and the identity of the Palestinians still exist."

Sánchez and his Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Simon Harris, have been at the forefront of efforts to build a coalition of like-minded EU member states on the Palestinian question. 

"This is a historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine," said Harris in Dublin on Wednesday morning. 

Irish foreign minister Micheál Martin announced on social media platform X that Dublin's recognition would be official from 28 May as the country moves in tandem with Spain. 

Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Stoere also announced his country will formally recognise Palestine as a state earlier on Wednesday. "There can't be peace without a Palestinian state," Stoere told reporters in Oslo.

According to Euronews sources, Norway is likely to mimic both Spain and Ireland in making the official recognition effective from 28 May.

Three other EU members likely to follow suit shortly

European Union member states Slovenia and Malta have also indicated in recent weeks that they may recognise Palestinian statehood, claiming it is vital to bring peace to the region. 

In March, both EU member states signed a joint declaration saying they stand ready to recognise Palestine with their Spanish and Irish counterparts on the margins of a summit in Brussels.

Slovenia's government approved a decree on 9 May that allows it to recognise the Palestinian state, and Prime Minister Robert Golob indicated that Ljubljana could formalise the move next month.

Belgium is also likely to follow suit soon, but refrained from signing the March declaration of intent as it currently holds the six-month rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, responsible for overseeing its work and therefore likely restricted from signing such declarations.

Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Vincent Van Peteghem said on Wednesday that Belgium "must also" recognise the state of Palestine.

"A lasting peace solution only has a chance when both parties at the negotiating table have the same status, and the peoples are recognized in their equal rights and freedoms," Van Peteghem said on X.

'Terrorism pays'

The move is opposed by Israel, which has claimed it will "fuel instability" in the Middle East. Israel Katz, the country's foreign affairs minister, has recalled Israel's ambassadors to Ireland and Norway for consultations and has warned Spain that similar steps will be taken.

"I’m sending a clear and unequivocal message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not remain silent in the face of those undermining its sovereignty and endangering its security," he wrote in a statement shared on X.

"Today’s decision sends a message to the Palestinians and the world: Terrorism pays," he also wrote, adding: "Israel will not remain silent - there will be further severe consequences."

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It comes against a backdrop of continued protests in support of the Palestinians in Gaza and mounting global condemnation of Israel's harsh military offensive. 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday said it was seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as several Hamas leaders, for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

Netanyahu and Israel's principal ally, the US, slammed the ICC move, with President Joe Biden calling it "outrageous". 

Palestinian statehood has been recognised by 139 out of 193 United Nations (UN) member states to date. 

First proposed by the UN in 1947, the two-state solution envisions creating two separate nations: one for Jews (Israel) and one for Palestinians (Palestine). It would involve dividing the land, with each state having its own government. The goal is to allow both sides to live side by side peacefully and independently.

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Israel's war in Gaza has killed more than 35,500 people — mostly women and children — according to Palestinian authorities. 

The fighting began on 7 October after Hamas' surprise raid in southern Israel, which killed 1,200 people, again mostly civilians. 

Around 125 hostages seized during the attack are still held by the militant Palestinian group.

Europe deeply split on Palestinian statehood

The move puts the EU’s highly divided stance on the war in Gaza and the Palestinians’ protracted fight for statehood into sharp focus.

Nine of the EU’s 27 member states currently recognise Palestinians' right to a state according to the so-called 1967 borders, which include the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

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They include eastern states such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, as well as the island states of Cyprus and Malta. 

They also include Sweden, which became the first member state to unilaterally recognise Palestinians' right to statehood while a member of the EU in 2014.

But many of these countries made this recognition in 1988 and have since shifted their positions towards a staunch pro-Israeli stance, most notably Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and the Czech Republic’s Petr Fiala were among the first to censure the International Criminal Court’s decision to seek an arrest warrant for Netanyahu and Gallant.

Hungary has also wielded its veto power to delay critical EU decisions in response to the conflict in Gaza, including sanctions on violent Israeli settlers and a joint appeal to Israel not to launch a full-scale operation on the town of Rafah.

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Both Hungary and the Czech Republic were the only EU member states to vote against a UN General Assembly resolution to give “favourable consideration” to Palestine’s application for full UN membership on 10 May.

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