Sweden’s prime minister ruled out on Wednesday a visit by a politician from ruling Palestinian party Hamas, saying Sweden would not give him a visa because the European Union brands the Islamic group terrorists.
France has already denied Salah al-Bardaweel a visa but the Hamas lawmaker said on Monday he would apply to other countries to join a delegation of four Palestinians from other parties on a tour of Europe, including Sweden’s neighbor Norway.
But Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said his country, which like France belongs to the 15-country European Schengen group where travelers can move without a passport, said Bardaweel was not welcome in Sweden.
“We have no national interest in inviting them and will therefore follow the guidelines that Hamas leaders cannot have visas to visit Schengen countries,” Persson told TT news agency during a visit to Finland.
Palestinians living in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, home to the biggest Muslim community in Scandinavia, had invited the delegation, including the Hamas politician, to visit in mid-May. They were also due to meet members of parliament.
Sweden, Norway two of biggest aid donors to Palestinians
Persson’s stance appeared as a shift in Sweden’s position. The foreign minister has earlier said that Hamas members were free to visit privately but would not meet government officials.
It was not immediately clear whether Norway, which is not an EU member, still planned to permit the Hamas legislator’s visit.
The EU has joined the United States and Israel in demanding that Hamas, which heads a new Palestinian government, recognize Israel and renounce violence. Hamas, which has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings against Israel since the start of a Palestinian uprising, has largely abided by a ceasefire.
But it has so far refused to abandon policies that put it on the U.S. and EU list of terror organizations.
Sweden and Norway have been two of the biggest aid donors to the Palestinians, but the EU has now cut off all direct aid to the Palestinian Authority and contacts with Hamas until it moderates its calls for Israel’s destruction.