Stefan Lofven
Stefan Lofven Reuters

Sweden has effectively retracted an earlier statement by new prime minister Stefan Lofven, who announced that his country would recognize the “state of Palestine,” arousing ire in Israel and disapproval in the United States.

"The prime minister said that the conflict between Israel and Palestine can be solved through the two-state solution, by negotiations in accordance with the principles of international law,” the Swedish Embassy in Israel said in a statement. The solution “must guarantee the legitimate demands of both Palestinians and Israelis, to self-determination and security. The two-state solution requires mutual recognition and the will to live together in peace. The prime minister summed up by saying that as a result, Sweden would recognize the Palestinian state.”

The Foreign Ministry announced that Sweden's ambassador to Israel would be summoned to the ministry after Loefven's statement.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that he regretted that the new premier was quick to make declarations regarding the position of Sweden on the recognition of a Palestinian state. Liberman speculated that Lofven probably made the statement before he had a chance to delve deeply into the issue and understand that the side that blocked progress and prevented an agreement in the last 20 years was the Palestinian side.

"Lofven should realize that no declaration and no step carried out by an external party can be a substitute for direct negotiations between the parties, and that a solution will be part of a final settlement between Israel and the entire Arab world,” Liberman explained.

“If what concerns the Swedish Prime Minister in his inaugural address is the situation in the Middle East,” he added, “it would be better for him to focus on more pressing issues such as that in the daily mass killings taking place in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the region.”

Washington reacted quickly, calling Stockholm's recognition "premature", while Palestinians cheered the decision as "courageous" and urged the rest of the European Union to follow suit.

Loefven unveiled what he called a "feminist" government including Green Party ministers for the first time in the Nordic country.

"The Swedish people voted for a change of government and a new political direction. A new government comprised of the Social Democrats and the Green Party is ready to take up the task," Loefven said in his inaugural speech to parliament.

"Sweden's new government is a feminist government," he said. Half his cabinet is female, including Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson and Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem, a former EU commissioner.