Argentina said Monday it recognized a "free and independent" Palestinian state, days after Brazil drew sharp criticism from US lawmakers for taking the same step.
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner wrote to her Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud 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.
Also Monday, Uruguay made a similar statement. The step is part of efforts to reignite peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
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 Palestinian Authority welcomed the announcement whereas Israel's Foreign Ministry expressed concern over a wave of support for a Palestinian unilateral move and started working to prevent the trend from spreading.
The Latin American countries' statements follow a request made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who visited the region last month.
The Palestinians have been working to persuade other countries to acknowledge their right to establish an independent state. Their target date is August 2011 - two years after the plan to establish a Palestinian state was first introduced by prime minister Salam Fayyad.
Foreign Ministry concerned
State officials in Jerusalem expressed concern that other countries in Latin America and the world will follow in Brazil and Argentina's footsteps. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: "This is a very disappointing step which contributes nothing to furthering the peace process."
He described the announcement as "a verbal gesture which goes against the Oslo Accords whereby a permanent solution can only be the result of negotiations." Palmor stressed that the gesture "encourages the Palestinians at the very time when they insist on avoiding negotiations."
Foreign Ministry officials have therefore started holding low-profiles talks with Latin American leaders, Ynet learned. "This is a meaningless paper, a virtual declaration. These declarations may look good in print but lack any understanding of the Middle Eastern reality," a ministry source said.
Ronen Medzini contributed to this report
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