'Beacon of hope': Middle East ministers hail Europe moves on Palestine state

Arab-Islamic talks in Madrid welcome recognition of Palestine by Spain, Norway and Ireland

Talks on the Middle East in Madrid on Wednesday involved, from left, Qatar's Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani; the secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, Hissein Brahim Taha; Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares; Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi; Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez; Turkey's Foreign Minister, Hakan Fidan, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan; and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa. EPA
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Middle East ministers on Wednesday praised the three European countries who have recognised the state of Palestine, as they discussed their next steps at talks in Spain.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the decision by Spain, Norway and Ireland provides a “beacon of hope” during the war in Gaza.

Ministers in an Arab-Islamic contact group offered “all means of support” to the landmark recognition, which is meant to revitalise long-term peace hopes.

The decisions come against the backdrop of an Israeli attack on Rafah, in the south of Gaza, which Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa said is “testing the world”.

Representatives of Jordan, Turkey, Qatar and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation also took part in the talks in Madrid a day after the historic moves, which Israel opposes.

“We are here to say thank you,” said Saudi Arabia's Prince Faisal, who also praised Slovenia after it signalled it will soon recognise Palestine.

“With all the dark we are seeing as a result of the continuing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, this is the right moment to give a beacon of hope to the two-state solution, to peace, to coexistence.

“We hope that others will follow suit, because the only way forward is the path to peace, and the path to peace goes through a two-state solution, through a state of Palestine that lives in peace and harmony with all its neighbours, including Israel.”

Rafah worry

Hosting the talks, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described recent images from Gaza as “extremely worrying” after Israel attacked a camp for displaced Palestinians.

Mr Sanchez said Spain “shares with Arab countries the will and commitment to end the violence and make the two-state solution a reality”.

He said recognition was intended to “restore hope to the Palestinian people that a future of peace, security and prosperity is possible for the region”.

The recognition applies to a state of a Palestine in its pre-1967 borders, covering the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

It recognises the Palestinian National Authority as the legitimate power, with Spain calling it a “rejection of Hamas”, which rules Gaza.

Mr Mustafa, the authority's Prime Minister, said it “warmly welcomes” the Spanish move which “strengthens our resolve to continue our struggle for a just and lasting peace”.

Spain was praised at the meeting for encouraging EU members to follow suit, said Qatar’s Foreign Ministry after Wednesday’s talks.

Ireland and Spain became the second and third countries, after Sweden in 2014, to recognise Palestine while a member of the EU, which Norway is not.

Slovenia's Prime Minister Robert Golob said the government could decide as soon as Thursday to recognise Palestine if parliament agrees.

Malta has also signalled its “readiness”. The foremost western powers such as the US, UK and Germany have said the time is not yet right.

Israel has vigorously opposed recognition, saying it rewards Hamas violence and leaves its hostages in the lurch.

It denies the claims of genocide and war crimes and being considered by international courts in The Hague, saying it is acting in self-defence.

Qatar was represented in Madrid by Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who was joined by Foreign Ministers Ayman Safadi of Jordan and Hakan Fidan of Turkey, and the secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, Hissein Brahim Taha.

Updated: May 29, 2024, 3:16 PM