Argentina and Uruguay announced Monday that they intend to join Brazil in recognizing an independent Palestinian state, provoking sharp criticism from Israel, French news agency AFP reported.
"The Argentine government recognizes Palestine as a free and independent state within the borders defined in 1967," AFP quoted Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, reading a letter sent by Argentine President Cristina Kirchner wrote to Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.
Shortly after Argentina's move, Uruguay announced that it too would recognize a Palestinian state starting from 2011. "Uruguay will surely follow the same path as Argentina in 2011," Uruguayan deputy foreign minister Roberto Conde told AFP.
"We are working towards opening a diplomatic representation in Palestine, most likely in Ramallah," he said.
The Foreign Ministry called the announcement "regrettable" and said that Israel viewed this decision with severity, and it would not help change the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.
A U.S. State Department official said Argentina's move was a "premature step [that] does not contribute to our common goal of a two-state solution."
"Negotiations are the pathway for the parties to see the realization of their aspirations - for the Israelis, security - for the Palestinians, an independent, viable, and sovereign state of their own," the U.S. official added.
On Friday Brazil said it has recognized a Palestinian state based on borders at the time of Israel's 1967 conquest of the West Bank.
The Brazilian Foreign Ministry said the recognition is in response to a request made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last month to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Silva sent a letter to Abbas on December 1, saying Brazil recognizes Palestine and hopes that the recognition will help lead to states of Israel and Palestine "that will coexist peacefully and in security."
The announcements by the three South American countries came as Middle East peace talks were on a hiatus since the temporary settlement freeze ended in late September.
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