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Marking 'shift in the relationship,' Eli Cohen becomes first Israeli foreign minister to visit Sweden in over 20 years

Sweden became the first Western democracy to recognize “Palestine” as an independent state

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen with his Swedish counterpart, Tobias Billström (Photo: Eli Cohen/Twitter)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen became the first top Israeli diplomat to visit Sweden in 22 years, following years of strained bilateral ties between Jerusalem and Stockholm.

Cohen met with his Swedish counterpart, Tobias Billström, in what both sides described as ‘a new chapter’ in bilateral relations. On the agenda was upgrading existing diplomatic and commercial ties.

Billström’s family history includes strong Jewish connections. His wife volunteered at a kibbutz in Israel in the 1990s and his grandparents hosted Jewish Holocaust survivors after the Second World War.

"The visit marks a change of direction in the relations between the countries, and we are opening a new chapter," said Cohen from Stockholm.

"We are turning a new page in the relationship between Israel and Sweden, after years of Stockholm leading a critical line toward Israel,” added the Israeli foreign minister.

Cohen noted that the current Russia-Ukraine war and Sweden’s NATO aspirations have opened the door for improved bilateral cooperation in security and innovation.

“The visit to Stockholm, the first by an Israeli foreign minister since 2001, marks a shift in the relationship between the two countries. The war in Ukraine and Sweden's expected accession to NATO can be a huge opportunity for Israel to strengthen economic ties with Stockholm and expand trade between the countries in areas such as security, innovation and fintech," stated Cohen.

Sweden’s Minister of Industry, Energy and Environment Ebba Busch, who is a strong supporter of the Jewish state, also met with the visiting Israeli foreign minister. Busch has previously published a picture of herself wearing an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) t-shirt in support of the Jewish state.

For many years, Sweden criticized Israel’s policies in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. Less than ten years ago, in 2014, Sweden became the first Western democracy to recognize “Palestine” as an independent state, leading to further deterioration in relations with Jerusalem.

However, in recent years, bilateral relations have gradually improved. In September 2021, former Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke on the phone with his then-Swedish counterpart Ann Linde in what was allegedly the first official conversation between the two countries’ foreign ministers in seven years.

“I believe that because of the page we are turning here today, there will be a whole new book of friendship and cooperation,” Lapid said at the time. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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