The Latest | Spain, Ireland and Norway make a coordinated move to recognize a Palestinian state – Metro US

The Latest | Spain, Ireland and Norway make a coordinated move to recognize a Palestinian state

Norway Europe Israel Palestinians
Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store speaks during a news conference in Oslo, Norway, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz has ordered Israel’s ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to immediately return to Israel, as Norway said it would recognize a Palestinian state and Ireland was expected to do the same. (Erik Flaaris Johansen/NTB Scanpix via AP)

Norway, Ireland and Spain said Wednesday they were recognizing a Palestinian state, a move welcomed by Palestinians as an affirmation of their decadeslong quest while Israel recalled its ambassadors to the three countries.

Several European Union countries indicated in recent weeks that they plan to make the recognition, arguing a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region. Some 140 countries have already recognized a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of United Nations members — but none of the major Western powers have done so. The move could put more pressure continental heavyweights France and Germany to reconsider their position.

Israel and the United States were already dealing with fallout after the chief prosecutor of the world’s top war crimes court requested arrest warrants for leaders of both Israel and Hamas. Among the prosecutor’s allegations against Israel was using “starvation as a method of warfare.” Israeli and U.S. leaders harshly condemned the accusations.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has escalated over the past two weeks since Israel launched an incursion into the southern city of Rafah that closed a vital border crossing, vowing to root out Hamas fighters. The fighting sent hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing out of Rafah, many of whom were displaced earlier in the Israel-Hamas war.

Israel launched its war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed about 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.

At least 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians. Around 80% of the population of 2.3 million Palestinians has been displaced within the territory, often multiple times.


— Norway, Ireland and Spain recognize a Palestinian state in a historic move.

— The United Nations halts all food distribution in Rafah after running out of supplies in the southern Gaza city.

— Two debunked accounts of sexual violence on Oct. 7 fueled a global dispute over Israel-Hamas war.

Israel tries to contain the fallout after some allies support ICC prosecutor’s request for warrants.

— Israel says it will return video equipment seized from the AP.

— Iran’s supreme leader presides over funeral for president and others killed in a helicopter crash.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here’s the latest:

VALETTA, Malta — Malta’s government is ready to recognize a Palestinian state “when such recognition can make a positive contribution, and when the circumstances are right,” the Mediterranean country’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

In an emailed statement, the ministry said that authorities were monitoring developments in the Middle East to determine “the optimal timeframes” for a recognition.

Malta was among four EU states, including Ireland, Spain and Slovenia, that in March started discussions on a possible recognition of a Palestinian state. Ireland, Spain and Norway said Wednesday they were moving forward with their recognition.

“Malta has consistently persisted in its position in favour of a two-state solution that meets the aspirations of the people of Israel and Palestine, with Jerusalem as the capital of two states living side-by-side in peace and security,” Malta’s statement said.

BRUSSELS — The Belgian government was discussing whether to join three other European nations in recognizing a Palestinian state at its weekly meeting on Wednesday, and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that any recognition needed to have the right timing.

“You can recognize only once. So when we do it, it needs to come at the right moment when it has an immediate impact. I want an impact on two issues. I want an end to violence in Gaza. I want that the hostages are freed,” he told VRT network.

“The right perspective is: will it help the violence stop tomorrow or not?”

Belgium is in a delicate situation since it currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, giving any decision it takes added diplomatic weight.

ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia is not considering the recognition of a Palestinian state at the moment, the prime minister of the European Union nation said on Wednesday.

Andrej Plenkovic said that “Croatia’s permanent position is based on a two-state solution but in a way that would lead to an agreement,” the official HINA news agency reported.

Croatia is the newest EU member after joining the bloc in 2013, after a war that followed the country’s split from the former Yugoslav federation in 1991. The former Yugoslavia had recognized a Palestinian state in 1988 and established full diplomatic relations a year later.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Justice Department says the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has no authority to seek arrest warrants against the country’s leaders because Israel is capable of investigating itself.

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for alleged crimes linked to the war in Gaza, including intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and using starvation as a weapon of war.

Khan is also seeking warrants against three Hamas leaders over the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack that ignited the war.

Israel’s top justice officials — Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara and State Prosecutor Amit Aisman— issued a statement on Wednesday calling the ICC allegations against Israel “unfounded.”

They said Israel’s legal offices “thoroughly examine all credible allegations of violations of the law by state officials, and enforce the law” adding that the ICC “lacks jurisdiction to conduct an investigation into the matter.”

Human right groups have long accused Israel of failing to investigate or punish its security forces over violence committed against Palestinians.

PARIS — France indicated that it isn’t ready to join other countries in recognizing a Palestinian state, even if it isn’t opposed to the idea in principle.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné, in comments relayed by his ministry after he had a closed-door meeting Wednesday with his Israeli counterpart, said that recognizing a Palestinian state must be “useful” in pushing forward a two-state solution and suggested that doing so now won’t have a genuine impact in pursuing that goal.

“Our position is clear: recognition of Palestine is not a taboo for France,” he said. “This decision must be useful, that is to say permit decisive progress on the political level.”

He also said timing is important, arguing: “It must come at the right time so that there is a before and an after.”

“It is not just a symbolic question or an issue of political positioning, but a diplomatic tool serving the solution of two states living side by side, in peace and security,” he said. “France does not consider that the conditions were present now for this decision to have a real impact in this process.”

TEL AVIV, Israel — Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced a bureaucratic order that could allow Jewish settlers to return to three evacuated settlements in the northern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Gallant said Wednesday he would attach three evacuated settlements to the local settler regional council, the first step in allowing the settlements to apply for building permits and allow Jewish settlers to return to the area.

Israel evacuated the settlements along with its unilateral pullout from Gaza in 2005. Since then, Israeli citizens have been officially banned from returning to those four settlements, though the Israeli military has allowed activists to visit and pray there.

In March 2023, the government repealed the 2005 act, paving the way for an official return to the abandoned West Bank areas in another setback to Palestinian hopes for statehood.

In May 2023, Homesh, one of the four evacuated settlements, was attached to the local settler regional council and a religious Jewish school was established there.

Gallant’s announcement Wednesday applies the same status to the former settlements of Kadim, Sha-Nur, and Ganim. The head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, hailed the announcements as “a moment of historical correction,” adding that the move is “necessary for the highest level of morals and security for the State of Israel, especially after Oct. 7.”

Activists with the left-wing organization Peace Now, which is opposed to settlements in the West Bank, said the move was “extremely concerning,” but noted that the approval of homes could take years.

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – Slovenia on Wednesday hailed the recognition of an independent Palestinian state by Norway, Spain and Ireland, but stopped short of immediately following suit.

Earlier in the year, Slovenia’s government launched a recognition procedure for a Palestinian state, but the small European Union nation has said the formal step will take place when it could best contribute to a lasting peace in the Middle East.

“The Slovenian government was the first of the group of countries that signed a special declaration … to start the process of recognizing Palestine, in which we expressed expectations — not conditions — for both sides,” Prime Minister Robert Golob said in a statement. He added that “Palestinians need more than just a symbolic gesture of recognition.”

“We would like to help to reform and empower the Palestinian Authority, which will represent its population in both the West Bank and Gaza and lead it to a two-state solution, which is seen by almost the entire world as the solution to lasting peace,” said Golob.

In Slovenia, lawmakers must give the final approval for the recognition of a state.

JERUSALEM — Aid groups say damage to water infrastructure and fuel shortages in southern Gaza have left some Palestinians surviving on as little as a half-liter (2 cups) of water per day. That has to cover drinking, washing and cooking, and is only 3% of the 15 liters per day that the World Health Organization says is needed for basic survival.

The International Rescue Committee and Medical Aid for Palestinians, which both operate in Gaza, say water-borne diseases have surged, in part because of the effect of water shortages on hygiene and sanitation. Kiryn Lanning, who leads the IRC’s work in Gaza, says staff visited a shelter where 10,000 people only received 4,000 liters of water per day. Another shelter, housing 8,000 people, had only 12 latrines, forcing over 600 people to share a single one.

Melanie Ward, the CEO of Medical Aid for Palestinians, said she had seen “literal lakes of human waste” next to tents in Rafah. Doctors with the group say diarrhea and skin diseases are on the rise, and that children have died from dehydration and starvation.

Israel’s incursion into Rafah earlier in May has caused around 900,000 Palestinians to flee the southern city, with many seeking refuge in squalid tent camps with no plumbing and few services. It has also severely restricted the ability to provide aid in the south. Israel seized control of the Rafah border crossing at the start of its incursion, forcing it to close. That was the main entry point for fuel, which is needed to power water infrastructure, hospitals and other infrastructure.

The United Nations suspended food distribution in Rafah on Tuesday, citing lack of supplies and security threats. Some 400,000 people are still believed to be in the city.

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey welcomed Spain, Ireland and Norway’s decision to recognize a Palestinian state, calling it an important step toward the restoration of the “usurped rights of the Palestinians.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said the move would help “Palestine gain the status it deserves in the international community.” Turkey would continue with efforts to press more states to recognize it, the ministry said.

LONDON — Ireland has recognized a Palestinian state, Prime Minister Simon Harris said Wednesday.

Harris called the move, coordinated with Spain and Norway, “an historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine.”

He said the move was intended to help move the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to resolution through a two-state solution. The Irish decision will formally take effect on May 28, the government said.

BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says that his country will recognize a Palestinian state on May 28.

Sánchez, Spain’s Socialist leader since 2018, made the expected announcement to the nation’s Parliament on Wednesday.

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

Earlier in May, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Albares said he had informed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken of his government’s intention of recognizing a Palestinian state.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said Wednesday that the country would formally recognize a Palestinian state, saying, “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has welcomed Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state and called on other countries to follow. In a statement carried by the official WAFA news agency, he said Norway’s decision, announced Wednesday, will enshrine “the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination” and support efforts to bring about a two-state solution with Israel.

Gahr Støre said the Scandinavian country will recognize a Palestinian state as of May 28.

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