BUENOS AIRES, (AFP) – Argentina said Monday it recognized a “free and independent” Palestinian state, days after Brazil drew sharp criticism from Israel and US lawmakers for taking the same step.
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner wrote to Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas saying her country recognizes a Palestine defined by 1967 borders, officials said.
“The Argentine government recognizes Palestine as a free and independent state within the borders defined in 1967,” Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said, reading from the letter.
Israel has already reacted with “sadness and disappointment” to Brazil’s declaration on the issue, saying it breached a 1995 agreement it had with the Palestinian Authority that any Palestinian state should only come about through negotiations with it.
US lawmakers have called Brazil’s decision “severely misguided” and “regrettable.”
Western countries have agreed that any definition of a Palestinian state required Israeli approval. The United States has consistently protected Israel’s position in the UN Security Council.
Argentina’s move came after Brazil last Friday made public a letter it had sent also recognizing a Palestinian state including West Bank and Gaza, which Israel seized in the 1967 Six Day War and has occupied since.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who had sought a mediator role in the Israeli-Palestinian situation, made the decision shortly before he is to stand down on January 1 next year.
His protegee and former cabinet chief, Dilma Rousseff, has been elected to take over from him on pledges to pursue his policies.
Argentina said its recognition of a Palestinian state reflected a general consensus in Mercosur, the South American trade bloc.
Mercosur’s members are: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Venezuela’s membership is pending. Associate members are: Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador Ecuador and Peru.
The announcements by Brazil and Argentina come as peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians teeter on the brink of collapse following the end of a temporary ban on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday he did “not see any reason” to extend the settlement freeze.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has said he will not return to negotiations while Israel continues to build on land the Palestinians want for their state.
He has repeatedly said he would explore other options if the peace talks collapse – including asking for UN recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.