Peru said on Monday it had recognized a Palestinian state, joining a growing number of Latin American countries in making an endorsement the United States has called premature.

Israel has warned that declarations by Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Guyana could undermine the Middle East peace process.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde did not specify if Peru recognized the Palestine state along borders that existed before 1967.

"Palestine is recognized as a free and sovereign state," he said on RPP radio.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas thanked Brazil several weeks ago for allowing his nation to open its first embassy in the Americas and said other countries were following suit.

Palestinian authorities are hoping for a diplomatic domino effect to back their claim for a state in all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel disputes the Palestinian claim on all the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.

In the last four decades, Israel has established over 100 Jewish settlements in the West Bank and have extended Israeli sovereignty to East Jerusalem, although the legality of these steps has been disputed by the international community.

U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations dating back two decades are predicated upon a Palestinian state being delineated with Israel's consent.

Direct peace talks revived by Washington in September after a year's suspension collapsed within weeks. A U.S. drive to keep the process alive via third-party talks is in limbo.

In December, a senior U.S. diplomat said recognition of a Palestinian state is premature. U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns said, "It's only through negotiation between the parties themselves, Palestinians and Israelis, that we'll be able to realize the two-state solution."

Israel has called Latin American countries' recognition of a Palestinian state "highly damaging interference" by countries that were never part of the Middle East peace process.