Sanchez: “I will recognise the Palestinian state next Wednesday”.

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This article was originally published in Spanish

Spain’s prime minister said during a rally in Catalonia that he is going to propose the parliament’s official recognition of Palestine as a state on Wednesday, 22 May.

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Sanchez defended the decision “out of moral conviction”, considering it “a just cause” and the “only way” to achieve peace and security in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ireland, Malta and Slovenia are expected to follow suit, and have already agreed to take the first steps in that direction.

In a phone call on Saturday, Taoiseach Simon Harris and Norwegian Prime Minister, Jonas Gahr Store agreed to remain in close consultation in the days ahead. Norway’s parliament adopted a government proposal in November for the country to be prepared to recognise an independent Palestinian state.

Harris and Store said that the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza underscored the need for an immediate ceasefire and for unhindered access for aid.

Earlier this week, Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob said his country would recognise Palestine’s statehood by mid-June.

Sanchez meanwhile criticised the Popular Party for refusing to recognise the Palestinian state and responded to former President Jose Maria Aznar by stating that “Spain will recognise it”.

The prime minister also acknowledged his party’s positive result in the Catalan elections of 12 May and said that Salvador Illa would make a good President of the Generalitat.

Spain would be the 10th European country to recognise the Palestinian State

There are already nine countries in the EU that have recognised Palestine as a state and Spain would be the tenth. On the list are: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and Slovakia.

Sanchez confirmed on Friday that Spain’s recognition will not be made at Tuesday’s Council of Ministers, as had been suggested.

The prime minister said that his position on the Israel-Hamas conflict is much like his country’s support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion more than two years ago.

He stressed that Spain demanded ”respect for international law from Russia, and from Israel, for the violence to end, the recognition of two states, and for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza”.

Sanchez added his voice to a chorus of other European leaders and government officials who have said that they could support a two-state solution in the Middle East, as international frustration grows with Israel’s military actions in the Palestinian territories.

French President Emmanuel Macron said last month that it’s not ”taboo” for France to recognise a Palestinian state. British Foreign Minister David Cameron said that the United Kingdom could officially recognise a Palestinian state after a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Five months after Hamas militants attacked Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage, the Israeli military has responded with air and ground assaults that have killed more than 35,386 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Why does Spain support recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state?

Spain has been historically close to the Arab world and, as such, the nation is actively trying to push a line more favourable to Palestinian aspirations within the European Union.

In a speech made shortly after his re-election last year, Sanchez promised that his new government’s “first commitment” on foreign policy would be to “work in Europe and Spain to recognise the Palestinian state”.

At the same time, he said he was “on the side of Israel” in the face of “the terrorist attack” of 7 October, but also called on the Jewish state to put an end to the “indiscriminate killing of Palestinians”.

The stance comes at a time when many Western countries are facing criticism in the Arab world for being seemingly too favourable towards Israel.

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In 2014, under a conservative government, the Spanish Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the recognition of the Palestinian state, supported by all political parties.

The vote, though, was non-binding and not followed by any action.

In Europe, several countries have taken this step in a more effective way.

They include Sweden, Hungary, Malta and Romania – but none of the main EU member states have done so, meaning that Spain could become a pioneer.

A brief history of Spanish-Arab relations

Geographically close to the Maghreb region of North Africa, Spain turned to Arab countries during the Franco dictatorship which ran from 1939 to 1975 in order to circumvent its isolation in the West.

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It was not until 1986, however, that the nation established official relations with Israel.

The relatively late date was a consequence of tensions born from Israel’s opposition to Spain’s entry into the UN at the end of the Second World War, due to its proximity to Nazi Germany.

In 1993, they played a role in the Oslo Accords, through which Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization mutually recognised each other as part of the peace process.

Overall, though, Spain remains perceived by many as a pro-Arab country.

At the end of October, a mini-diplomatic crisis even broke out with the Israeli embassy after controversial statements by a far-left Spanish minister who spoke of a “planned genocide” in Gaza.

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With much of Europe firmly pro-Israel, Isaias Barrenada, a professor at the Complutense University of Madrid, said it will be an uphill battle for Sanchez.

”It is difficult to imagine that Spain has the capacity to reorient the European position,” Barrenada told AFP, but “it can contribute to showing that there are sensitivities within the EU.”

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