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Norway, Ireland and Spain say they are historic in recognizing a Palestinian state

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Norway, Ireland and Spain said Wednesday they recognize a Palestinian state, a historic step that drew condemnation from Israel and jubilation from Palestinians. Israel immediately ordered the return of its ambassadors from Norway and Ireland.

It was a lightning-fast cascade of announcements. The first was Norway, whose Prime Minister Jonas Gahr store said: “There can be no peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.”

Gahr Støre said the Scandinavian country will officially recognize a Palestinian state from May 28. “By recognizing a Palestinian state, Norway supports the Arab peace plan,” he said.

Several European Union countries have indicated in recent weeks that they intend to make the recognition, arguing that a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region. The decision could boost recognition of a Palestinian state by other EU countries and spur further action at the United Nations, further deepening Israel’s isolation.

Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but reflects its moves, has been a staunch supporter of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups that do not support a two-state solution and the state of Israel,” the Norwegian government leader said. “Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state.”

The move comes as Israeli forces led attacks on the northern and southern edges of the Gaza Strip in May, triggering a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of people and sharply limiting the flow of aid, raising the risk of famine.

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The Scandinavian country “will therefore regard Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails,” Gahr Støre said.

The development comes more than thirty years after the first Oslo Agreement was signed in 1993. Since then, “Palestinians have taken important steps toward a two-state solution,” the Norwegian government said.

It stated that the World Bank determined that a Palestinian state had met key criteria for statehood in 2011, and that national institutions had been built to provide key services to the population.

“The war in Gaza and the continued expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank continue to mean that the situation in Palestine is more difficult than it has been in decades,” the Norwegian government said.

Also Wednesday, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris made his announcement, saying it was a move coordinated with Spain and Norway, “a historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine.” He said the move was intended to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution.

Harris said he believes other countries will join Norway, Spain and Ireland in recognizing a Palestinian state in the coming weeks.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his country will also recognize a Palestinian state on May 28. Sánchez, Spain’s socialist leader since 2018, made the expected announcement to the country’s parliament on Wednesday.

Sánchez has spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries to build support for the recognition of a Palestinian state, as well as a possible ceasefire in Gaza. He has said several times that he is committed to the move.

“We know that this initiative will not bring back the past and the lives lost in Palestine, but we believe it will give Palestinians two things that are very important for their present and their future: dignity and hope,” Sánchez said.

“This recognition is against no one and not against the Israeli people,” Sánchez added, while acknowledging that it will most likely cause diplomatic tensions with Tel Aviv. “It is an act in favor of peace, justice and moral consistency.”

Sánchez argued that the move is necessary to support the viability of a two-state solution, which he said is “in serious jeopardy” due to the war in Gaza.

“I have been talking for weeks and months with leaders inside and outside the region and if one thing is clear, it is that Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu has no peace project for Palestine, even if the fight against the terrorist group Hamas is legitimate,” said the Spanish leader.

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Earlier this month, Spanish Foreign Minister José Albares said he had informed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken of his government’s intention to recognize a Palestinian state.

The rapidly advancing developments led to the condemnation of Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz ordered the Israeli ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to return to Israel immediately, as Norway said it would recognize a Palestinian state and Ireland was expected to do the same.

“Ireland and Norway intend to send a message today to the Palestinians and the entire world: terrorism pays,” Katz said.

He said the recognition could hamper efforts to return Israel’s hostages held in Gaza and make a ceasefire less likely by “rewarding the jihadists of Hamas and Iran.” He also threatened to recall the Israeli ambassador to Spain if the country took a similar position.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state and called on other countries to follow suit.

In a statement carried by the official Wafa news agency, Abbas said Norway’s decision will enshrine “the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people” and support efforts to achieve a two-state solution with Israel.

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Associated Press writers Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, Jill Lawless in London and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed to this story.

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