In Brief: Israeli foreign minister makes first visit to Sweden in 22 years

Israeli and Swedish flags > Israel Sweden Chamber of Commerce, public domain

Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, visited Sweden on Monday in what is the first Israeli visit to the Nordic country in 22 years.

The visit follows a thaw in relations between Jerusalem and Stockholm since 2021, after more than a decade of frosty relations.

The relationship between Sweden and Israel reached a low point in 2014, when Stockholm unilaterally recognised Palestinian statehood outside of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Sweden joined Iceland as only the second western European country to recognise Palestinian statehood, a largely symbolic move which contradicted longstanding US and western European policy, and which was seen as undermining the commitment to avoid unilateralism laid out in the Oslo Accords.

Cohen visited Sweden, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, to meet Swedish counterpart Tobias Billström.

“We are opening a new page in relations between Israel and Sweden after years in which Sweden was critical towards Israel”, Cohen said, pointing to Sweden’s accession to NATO as an opportunity for closer collaboration on trade and defence.

This week’s visit followed a September 2021 meeting between then-foreign ministers Yair Lapid and Anne Linde, which Lapid said “symbolises the relaunching of relations”.