RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Joining a growing number of South American nations to support a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, Paraguay said it plans to recognize an independent Palestinian state next year, Palestinian officials told reporters on Sunday.
Paraguay's Foreign Minister Hector Lacognata gave a spring 2011 deadline for the country's recognition of a Palestinian state on the lands occupied by Israel in 1967. He made the announcement to the Palestinian ambassador to Paraguay, the Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement.
The nation joins Uruguay in its pledge to recognize a Palestinian state in 2011, while Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador already formalized their full recognition in December.
While the EU declined requests to recognize a Palestinian state, EU nations have slowly upgraded the status of Palestinian representatives to full diplomatic status. Earlier in December, Norway followed the trend and upgraded the PLO mission in Oslo, while Turkey pledged its support for a state on the '67 borders and said it would work diplomatic angles and convince other nations to do the same.
US officials condemned the Brazilian and Argentinian recognitions of a Palestinian state, saying Brazil's decision was "severely misguided" and "regrettable."
Brazil's decision "is regrettable and will only serve to undermine peace and security in the Middle East," charged Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Later in the month the US House of Representatives voted through a motion to prevent the nation's recognition of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state. Israel warns: World may soon recognize Palestinian state
In spite of stalled peace talks, the "entire world" could recognize a Palestinian state within a year, a dovish Israeli cabinet minister warned Sunday, urging the resumption of negotiations.
"I would not be surprised if within a year the entire world, even the US, recognizes a Palestinian state, then we will have to explain how this happened," Ben Eliezer told reporters ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Israel opposes any recognition of a Palestinian state, saying its establishment must be reached through negotiations and not through unilateral moves.
But with the breakdown of peace talks, the Palestinians have said they are considering new diplomatic options, and welcomed the recognition from the Latin American nations.
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first for nearly two years, began in Washington on September 2. But they quickly stalled, when a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze expired on September 26.
The Palestinians refused to resume negotiations without a new moratorium and on December 7 Washington admitted that it had failed to convince Israel to renew the building ban, despite offering a generous package of incentives.
Ben Eliezer, from the dovish Labor Party, said Israel must do all it can to get talks back on track.
"We must do all everything possible to renew talks with the Palestinians, even if it means a settlement freeze for a few months," he said.
Palestinian negotiators have emphasized a set of alternatives to new talks, including seeking recognition of a Palestinian state along the borders that existed in 1967, before the Six Day War. AFP contributed to this report