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A growing list of Latin American nations moving to recognize a Palestinian state

January 4, 2011 |  8:11 pm

Sebastian Pinera Mahmud Abbas gob chile

Joining a widening trend across Latin America, Chile and Paraguay are poised to recognize a Palestinian state based on borders before the 1967 Middle East War, reports in Israel and Latin America said.

In recent weeks, several countries in the region have declared their recognition of a Palestinian state half a world away. Led by the rising global player Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Ecuador and Venezuela have all done so, reports the Israeli daily Haaretz.

The move by these governments to recognize a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders appears to be an uncoordinated response to requests that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has made to Latin American leaders, reports said. "There is no obvious coordination but quite a few Latin American governments are suddenly recognizing the Palestinian state in a very short amount of time," notes the Latin America-focused blog Two Weeks Notice.

On Saturday, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera met one-on-one with Abbas in Brazil during the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff as Brazil's first female president. Abbas attended the inauguration in Brasilia to "thank the presidents" that have recognized the Palestinian state, reported the Chilean daily La Tercera (link in Spanish).

Chile is home to a significant population of about 350,000 mostly Christian Palestinians (link in Spanish). Like many of its neighbors, Chile also has a large Jewish community. A Jewish leader in Chile called the decisions to recognize a Palestinian state "imprudent" (link in Spanish).

The declarations have confounded Israel, as none of the South American countries have been directly involved in U.S.-led peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Those negotiations remain deadlocked.

Israel has said the South American declarations harm the peace process.

"They never made any contribution to [the peace process] and now they're making a decision that is completely contrary to everything that has been agreed so far," a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry told Reuters in December. "It is absurd."

Colombia, for its part, said it would not recognize a Palestinian state until a peace accord is reached with Israel (link in Spanish). Mexico maintains a position of supporting a two-state solution, but the Foreign Ministry has not made any indication it would follow suit behind Brazil and other countries in the region (link in Spanish).

In March 2010, Mexico expressed worry over construction of new Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem (link in Spanish), calling them "contrary to international law."

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Brasilia, Brazil, on Jan. 1. Credit: Government of Chile, via Flickr.

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