Sweden may become the first member of the European Union to recognise the state of Palestine, after the Nordic country's new centre-left government has said it will do so.
"The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law," Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Friday, during his inaugural address in parliament.
"A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence. Sweden will therefore recognise the
state of Palestine."
The UN General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012 but the European Union and most of its 28 members, have yet to give official recognition.
Other EU members such as Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have recognised Palestine before joining the bloc. If the centre-left government fulfils its plans, Sweden would be the first country to recognise Palestine while enjoying EU membership
For the Palestinians, Sweden's move will be a major boost. It may draw similar steps from other countries at a time when peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, on which the future of the Palestinian state hinges, are looking bleak.
In response to Sweden's announcement, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters it would be "premature" to recognise a Palestinian state.
"We certainly support Palestinian statehood, but it can only come through a negotiated outcome, a resolution of final status issues and mutual recognitions by both parties."
Meanwhile, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat applauded the decision, describing it as "courageous and remarkable."
"We salute the announcement by the Swedish prime minister," Erakat said in the West Bank administrative capital of Ramallah. "We hope that all countries of the European Union will take the same courageous and remarkable decision... as there is no reason not to recognise the Palestinian state."
Sweden's former centre-right government would not recognise Palestine as the Palestinian authorities did not control their territory.
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in East Jerusalem. While Gaza's boundaries are clearly defined, the precise territory of what would constitute Palestine in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will only be determined via negotiations with Israel on a two-state solution, negotiations which are currently suspended.