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Spain aims to recognise Palestinian statehood by July

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Spain aims to recognise Palestinian statehood by July in a move that it hopes will open the way for more western powers to follow suit.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, one of the most vocal critics of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, revealed the goal on Tuesday as he began a trip to Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

“We have to think seriously about doing it in the first half of this year,” Sánchez said.

He spoke as Israel comes under mounting international pressure to halt its war against Hamas, which was launched after the group killed 1,200 Israelis in an October raid, according to Israeli officials. Israel’s offensive has killed more than 32,000 people, according to Palestinian authorities.

While the EU’s long-standing policy is to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the bloc does not have an official, unified position regarding Palestinian statehood itself. A few EU member states, including Spain, Ireland and Malta are in favour of unilateral recognition, while others, notably Germany, would consider this step only as part of a two‑state solution agreed by both Israel and Palestine.

Palestine is already recognised by Sweden, which acted on its own in 2014, and several central and eastern European members that had recognised it before joining the EU, namely Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. France has also come close to recognition, but has not formally taken that step.

The UK said in January that it could recognise Palestinian statehood as part of UN efforts to secure a two-state solution in which Israel and Palestine co-exist side by side.

A senior Spanish government official said Madrid viewed its recognition as an important step towards that two-state solution.

Sánchez had previously signalled Spain’s intention to acknowledge a Palestinian state but had not specified a timeline for doing so.

In March he signed a joint declaration with the prime ministers of Ireland, Slovenia and Malta expressing their “readiness to recognise Palestine” when doing so “can make a positive contribution and the circumstances are right”.

On Tuesday Sánchez said Spain wanted to recognise Palestine but added that “we must be attentive to the decisions that will be taken in Brussels and New York”, a reference to the UN.

Arab states and Palestinian officials have been calling for western powers to recognise a Palestinian state as part of a step towards ending the protracted conflict rather than as an outcome of a process.

Spain’s cabinet has the authority to recognise Palestine without needing the approval of parliament.

The Spanish government official said Madrid saw the possibility of the US and other western permanent members of the UN Security Council recognising Palestine as a full UN member during the month of April.

The Spanish official noted that a two-state solution would also require Arab states that do not recognise Israel to do so. On his trip to the Middle East, Sánchez is also pushing for them to change their stance, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Spanish official added that the international community must also help to strengthen the Palestinian Authority as part of any post-war settlement so that it is capable of governing Gaza, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Spain insists that Hamas must play no part in governing the territories.

On Monday night, seven members of the humanitarian organisation World Central Kitchen were killed in an air strike in Gaza.

José Manuel Albares, Spain’s foreign minister, said he was “horrified” by the attack, noting that the organisation was set up by US-based Spanish chef José Andrés. “We demand a ceasefire and the entry of humanitarian aid,” Albares said.

Additional reporting by Carmen Muela in Madrid, Paola Tamma and Henry Foy in Brussels, Leila Abboud in Paris and Andrew England in London

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