Sweden to appoint full-time diplomat to Israel-Palestine peace process
Israeli soldiers keep position during clashes with Palestinian protestors following a weekly demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus, in the occupied West Bank on February 10, 2017. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
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Sweden will appoint a full-time diplomat to the Israel-Palestine peace process, foreign minister Margot Wallstrom announced on Wednesday.
The special envoy is to establish contacts and represent Sweden in international talks about the conflict.
"This year marks 50 years of the occupation of Palestine. Sweden continues to work for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will appoint a special envoy," Wallstrom said during the presentation of her foreign policy vision in parliament.
"When I visited Palestine in December it was noticeable that hope can turn to despair, and this features heavily in the consultations that Sweden is holding with almost 150 Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations," she added.
In addition to being an early country to recognize Palestine as a state, Sweden has welcomed a Palestinian embassy - the first in Western Europe.
Israeli officials have criticized Wallstrom after she called for a probe into the "extrajudicial executions" of Palestinians over the past few months, the death toll of which has now reached 130 since November.
"It is vital that there are thorough, credible investigations into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability," she said in January.
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said that Wallstrom's comments were "outrageous, immoral and stupid."
"People are defending themselves against assailants wielding knives who are about to stab them to death and they shoot the people, and that’s extrajudicial killings?" he told reporters at the time.
Shortly after her remarks, Swedish security authorities had to investigate death threats against her, after Zvi Zameret, a former government official, suggested she should meet the same end as Count Folke Bernadotte, a Swedish UN diplomat assassinated by a Zionist militia in 1948.
Wallstrom then had to cancel a visit to Tel Aviv for a seminar in honour of Raoul Wallenberg after Israeli officials refused to meet her, which meant she would have to come as a private citizen with no security precautions.
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