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Spain,Norway,Ireland: Palestinian State05/28 06:16


   BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Spain, Norway and Ireland moved to formally 
recognize a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a coordinated effort by the three 
western European nations designed to add international pressure on Israel to 
soften its devastating response to last year's Hamas-led attack. Tel Aviv 
slammed the diplomatic move that will have no immediate impact on its grinding 
war in Gaza.

   Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Snchez told his nation in a televised address 
from Madrid that "this is a historic decision that has a single goal, and that 
is to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace."

   Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz quickly lashed out at Spain on X, 
saying Snchez's government was "being complicit in inciting genocide against 
Jews and war crimes."

   Ireland and Norway soon joined Spain in formalizing a decision they had 
jointly announced the previous week. The Palestinian flag was raised in Dublin 
outside Leinster House, the seat of the Irish parliament.

   "This is an important moment and I think it sends a signal to the world that 
there are practical actions you can take as a country to help keep the hope and 
destination of a two-state solution alive at a time when others are trying to 
sadly bomb it into oblivion," Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said before his 
Cabinet meets to formally sign off on the decision.

   Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement that "for 
more than 30 years, Norway has been one of the strongest advocates for a 
Palestinian state. Today, when Norway officially recognizes Palestine as a 
state, is a milestone in the relationship between Norway and Palestine."

   While dozens of countries have recognized a Palestinian state, none of the 
major Western powers has done so. Still, the adherence of three European 
countries to the group represents a victory for Palestinian efforts in the 
world of public opinion.

   Relations between the EU and Israel have nosedived with the diplomatic 
recognitions by two EU members, and Madrid insisting on Monday that the EU 
should take measures against Israel for its continued deadly attacks in 
southern Gaza's city of Rafah.

   After Monday's meeting of EU foreign ministers, Irish Foreign Minister 
Michel Martin said "for the first time at an EU meeting, in a real way, I have 
seen a significant discussion on sanctions" for Israel.

   Harris, the Irish leader, insisted Tuesday the EU should consider economic 
sanctions for Israel, saying "Europe could be doing a hell of a lot more."

   Norway, which is not an EU member but often aligns its foreign policy with 
the bloc, handed diplomatic papers to the Palestinian government over the 
weekend ahead of its formal recognition.

   At the same time, the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell threw his 
weight behind the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor is seeking an 
arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others, 
including leaders of the Hamas militant group.

   The formal declaration and resulting diplomatic dispute come over seven 
months into a grinding war waged by Israel against Hamas in Gaza following the 
Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in which militants stormed across the Gaza border into 
Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage. Israel's air and land 
attacks have killed 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, 
which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

   Last week's joint announcement by Spain, Ireland and Norway triggered an 
angry response from Israeli authorities, which summoned the countries' 
ambassadors in Tel Aviv to the Foreign Ministry, where they were filmed while 
being shown videos of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and abductions.

   Some 140 countries -- more than two-thirds of the United Nations -- 
recognize a Palestinian state. The addition of three western European countries 
to that group will likely put pressure on EU heavyweights France and Germany to 
rethink their position.

   Slovenia's Prime Minister Robert Golob said Monday his government will 
decide on the recognition of a Palestinian state on Thursday and forward its 
decision to parliament for final approval.

   The United States and Britain, among others, back the idea of an independent 
Palestinian state alongside Israel but say it should come as part of a 
negotiated settlement. Netanyahu's government says the conflict can only be 
resolved through direct negotiations.

   In his speech on Tuesday, Snchez said that the recognition of a Palestinian 
state was "a decision that we do not adopt against anyone, least of all against 
Israel, a friendly people whom we respect, whom we appreciate and with whom we 
want to have the best possible relationship."

   The Socialist leader, who announced his country's decision before parliament 
last week, has spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries, 
including stops in Oslo and Dublin, to garner support for the recognition of a 
Palestinian state and a cease-fire in Gaza.

   He called for a permanent cease-fire, for stepping up humanitarian aid into 
Gaza and for the release of hostages that Hamas has held since the Oct. 7 
attack that triggered Israel's response.

   Snchez said that the move was to back the beleaguered Palestinian 
Authority, which lost effective political control of Gaza to Hamas. He laid out 
his vision for a state ruled by the Palestinian Authority that must connect the 
West Bank and Gaza via a corridor with east Jerusalem as its capital.

   Norway's Barth Eide added that "it is regrettable that the Israeli 
government shows no signs of engaging constructively."

   "The recognition is a strong expression of support for moderate forces in 
both countries," Norway's top diplomat said.

   The Western-backed Palestinian Authority administers parts of the 
Israeli-occupied West Bank, cooperates with Israel on security matters and 
favors a negotiated two-state solution. Its forces were driven out of Gaza by 
Hamas when the militants seized power there in 2007.

   The Palestinians have long sought an independent state in Gaza, the West 
Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. 
The idea of a land corridor linking Gaza and the West Bank through Israel was 
discussed in previous rounds of peace talks, but no serious or substantive 
peace negotiations have been held in over 15 years.

   "We will not recognize changes in the 1967 border lines other than those 
agreed to by the parties," Snchez added.

   "Furthermore, this decision reflects our absolute rejection of Hamas, a 
terrorist organization who is against the two-state solution," Snchez said. 
"From the outset, Spain has strongly condemned the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7. 
This clear condemnation is the resounding expression of our steadfast 
commitment in the fight against terrorism. I would like to underline that 
starting tomorrow we would focus all our efforts to implement the two state 
solution and make it a reality."

   Israel is also under pressure from the International Criminal Court after 
its chief prosecutor said he would seek arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his 
defense minister. The ICJ is also considering allegations of genocide that 
Israel has strenuously denied.

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