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Israeli foreign minister makes first visit to Sweden in two decades

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Israel’s foreign minister on Monday paid a visit to Sweden in a new sign of warming ties between the two nations.

Eli Cohen said his visit to Stockholm was the first visit by an Israeli foreign minister to Sweden in 22 years.

“We are opening a new page in relations between Israel and Sweden after years in which Sweden took a critical line against Israel,” he said in a statement issued by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. He said his meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Tobias Billstrom, signaled a “change in direction” of ties.

Billstrom called the meeting “very good and productive” in a statement on Twitter. “The first one in 20 years, so long overdue,” he added.

Sweden’s previous Social Democratic government had a rocky relationship with Israel after recognizing a Palestinian state in 2014, a move that prompted Israel to temporarily recall its ambassador to Sweden. Two years later, Israel said Sweden’s foreign minister at the time was “not welcome” after critical comments of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

But relations have begun to thaw. In October 2021, Sweden’s foreign minister at the time visited Israel in an attempt to mend ties.

Those relations are expected to improve further under Sweden’s new center-right government, which took office last October.