RAMALLAH: Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was to travel to Brazil later on Wednesday to lay the symbolic foundation stone of a Palestinian embassy in Brasilia.
The ceremony is to take place on Friday and comes after Brazil announced it was recognizing a Palestinian state based on the borders which existed before the 1967 Six-Day War when Israel seized the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
On Saturday, Abbas is due to attend the inauguration of Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff, and expected to hold meetings with Latin American leaders in Brazil for the ceremony.
Brazil’s outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on December 3 that his country would recognize a Palestinian state following a personal request from Abbas.
"The demand presented by his Excellency (Abbas) is just and consistent with the principles upheld by Brazil with regard to the Palestinian issue," Brazil’s foreign ministry said.
The announcement angered both Israel and the United States, which have said a Palestinian state can only be achieved through a negotiated peace deal.
But a string of other Latin American countries, including Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador, have followed suit, and Uruguay has said it will recognize a Palestinian state on the same basis in 2011.
Other Latin American countries, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Venezuela, already recognized Palestinian statehood several years ago.
The Brazilian recognition comes as the Palestinians seek bilateral recognition of their statehood from around the world, with their peace talks with Israel in an impasse.
Direct peace negotiations, the first in nearly two years, were launched on September 2 in Washington but stalled just weeks later when an Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank expired.
Abbas has refused to return to talks while Israel builds on land the Palestinians want for a future state, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to put a new freeze in place.
The United States has proposed the two sides resume indirect talks.
The Palestinians have refused and said they will turn instead to alternative options, including bilateral recognition of statehood and going to the United Nations to seek recognition.
Abbas visited Brazil in 2005 and 2009, while Lula made the first ever trip by a Brazilian head of state to Israel and the Palestinian territories in March of this year.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians will ask the UN Security Council in the coming days to condemn Israeli settlement construction, a senior Palestinian official said Wednesday, part of a growing Palestinian campaign to rally international pressure against Israel with peace efforts deadlocked.
The move reflects growing Palestinian discontent with US efforts to broker a peace agreement by next September. American-mediated talks have been stalled for more than three months, in large part because of disagreements over Israeli settlement construction on captured lands claimed by the Palestinians.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that shortly after the New Year the Palestinians’ Arab allies would present a resolution that will "declare that the Israeli settlement building is illegal and must be stopped immediately."
Palestinian officials acknowledge that such moves will have little immediate impact on the ground. Instead, they say they want the world to send a tough message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom they believe is not serious about pursuing peace.
While the Palestinians say they are still committed to a negotiated peace deal, they have grown increasingly frustrated and begun to take alternative actions to put Israel on the defensive. As part of that campaign, they have been seeking unilateral recognition of an independent Palestinian state, even in the absence of a peace deal.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Palestinian efforts do little to promote peace.
"By choosing unilateralism over direct talks, the Palestinians are declaring that they renounce peace altogether," he said. "The Palestinians are choosing not to renew negotiations and are doing all they can to score minor points. They are trying everything except to talk."