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Arab praise as Ireland, Norway, Spain recognise Palestinian state

The recent recognition of a Palestinian state by Ireland, Norway, and Spain has been met with praise from Arab states. Other nations are encouraged to take similar actions. Countries like oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which shares a border with the conflict-torn Gaza Strip, have long advocated for a two-state solution.

Published May 22,2024

Arab states hailed the decision by Ireland, Norway and Spain to recognise a Palestinian state on Wednesday and urged other countries to follow suit.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which borders the war-ravaged Gaza Strip, were among the Middle East countries that praised the move, having called for a two-state solution for decades.

Dublin, Madrid and Oslo announced they would recognise a Palestinian state next Tuesday, nearly eight months into the devastating Gaza conflict.

Israel strongly opposed the decision, arguing it was "rewarding terrorism" after Palestinian militant group Hamas's October 7 attack which sparked the Gaza war.

But Saudi Arabia called it a "positive decision" that "affirms the international consensus on the inherent right of the Palestinian people to self-determination".

The Gulf kingdom, which has long positioned itself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, said it "calls on the rest of the countries to quickly make the same decision".

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, has signalled it is prepared to establish relations with Israel under a proposed US-brokered deal, with the strict condition of irrevocable steps towards Palestinian statehood.

Egypt, which has engaged in mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas, alongside Qatar and the United States, also hailed Wednesday's move as a "welcome step".

The announcement supports "international efforts to create a political horizon that can lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state", the Egyptian statement said.

Mediator Qatar similarly welcomed the announcement as an "important step in support of a two-state solution", also expressing hope that other countries would do the same.

The Arab quintet of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt have repeatedly pushed for a pathway to Palestinian statehood since the start of the Gaza war.

The two-state solution, with a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel, is a cherished goal for Arab nations, which believe it could defuse Middle East tensions and help usher in a period of prosperity for a region long riven by conflict.

- 'Wider movement' -

According to the Palestinian Authority, which has limited powers in parts of the occupied West Bank, 142 of the 193 UN member countries already recognise a Palestinian state.

Most Western governments including the United States say they are willing to one day recognise Palestinian statehood -- but not before agreement is reached on thorny issues like its final borders and the status of Jerusalem.

Jordan, the custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, praised the move by Ireland, Norway and Spain as an "important and essential step towards Palestinian statehood".

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi expressed hopes that "these decisions will be part of a wider movement that... places all countries in the world and the region on a clear path towards a just and comprehensive peace".

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council also supported the European countries' move, with secretary general Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi calling it "a pivotal and strategic step towards achieving the two-state solution".

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, welcomed the move as an "important historic step".

Last week, the 22-member Arab League called for an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations to "resolve the Palestinian issue on the basis of the two-state solution".

An Arab-Israeli war in 1967 saw Israel seize the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Israel later annexed east Jerusalem, and successive Israeli governments have encouraged Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

According to the UN, the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, remain occupied, and Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank are considered illegal under international law.