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Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority Mohammed Mustafa, left, speaks after receiving a document handed over by Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, right, prior to a meeting for talks on the Middle East in Brussels on May 26.Virginia Mayo/The Associated Press

Norway on Sunday handed over diplomatic papers to the Palestinian Prime Minister in the latest step toward recognizing a Palestinian state, a largely symbolic move that has infuriated Israel.

Ireland and Spain made a concerted pledge with Norway to recognize a Palestinian state, a historic move that increases Israel’s isolation more than seven months into its grinding war against Hamas in Gaza.

The handover of papers by Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide to the Prime Minister was made in Brussels, where Mohammad Mustafa is also meeting with foreign ministers of European Union nations and high-level EU officials on Monday to drum up support for the Palestinians. Norway itself is not part of the EU.

The diplomatic move by the three countries was a welcome boost of support for Palestinian officials who have sought for decades to establish statehood in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – territories Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war and still controls.

“Recognition means a lot for us. It is the most important thing that anybody can do for the Palestinian people,” said Mr. Mustafa. “It is a great deal for us.”

The formal recognition by Norway, Spain and Ireland – which all have a record of friendly ties with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, while long advocating for a Palestinian state – is planned for Tuesday.

Some 140 countries – more than two-thirds of the United Nations – recognize a Palestinian state but a majority of the 27 EU nations still do not. Several have said they would recognize it when the conditions are right.

The EU, the United States and Britain, among others, back the idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel but say it should come as part of a negotiated settlement.

Belgium, which holds the EU presidency, has said that first the Israeli hostages held by Hamas need to be freed and the fighting in Gaza must end. Some other government favour a new initiative toward a two-state solution, 15 years after negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed.

Sunday’s handover of papers came only two days after the United Nations’ top court ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in the latest move that piled more pressure on the increasingly isolated country.

Days earlier, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with Hamas officials.

The war in Gaza started after Hamas-led militants stormed across the border, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage. Israel’s ensuing offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, and has caused a humanitarian crisis and a near-famine.

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