BRASILIA, Brazil – Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Friday that a recent wave of nations recognizing a Palestinian state based upon 1967 borders is pressuring Israel and the U.S. to return to negotiations and reach a peace deal.
Abbas, in Brazil to lay the cornerstone of a Palestinian Embassy and attend the inauguration of President-elect Dilma Rousseff, told The Associated Press in an interview that recent recognition of a Palestinian state by several Latin American nations would help push the U.S. and Israel into new talks.
"These recognitions of a Palestinian state will help us to convince the Israelis on the necessity to reach a two-state solution," said Abbas.
The current round of peace negotiations collapsed in late September, just weeks after they were launched, when Israel ended a slowdown on settlements in West Bank areas it captured in 1967, land where the Palestinians plan to build their state. By December, the U.S. abandoned trying to persuade Israel to halt the settlements.
The Palestinians refuse to negotiate while Israel builds homes for Jews in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Abbas said he expects other Latin American and European nations to soon join Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia in recognizing a Palestinian state.
Uruguayan officials have said they'll likely recognize the state soon. Cuba and Venezuela did so long ago.
Eventually, Abbas said, "It will only be Israel and maybe the United States who do not recognize the Palestinian state — and this will put pressure on them."
The Israeli government has reacted testily to the recognitions, saying that inaugurating an embassy for a nonexistent state — and Palestinians efforts for recognition of that state — is not the best way to achieve peace.
"The Israeli government has been trying to relaunch and re-engage Palestinians in direct talks for a very long time," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Shachar Azani told the AP. "Unfortunately, so far there has been no response."
Azani said that the Palestinians "must remember that at the end of the day peace is done with your neighbor and not in faraway continents or with the United Nations."
Earlier this week, Palestinian officials said they plan to ask the U.N. Security Council to declare Israeli settlements illegal and demand a halt to their construction. That would be a key element in a Palestinian campaign to rally international support for independence.
Abbas said the settlements were the cause of the stalled talks.
"It's not that we don't want the negotiations. We were extending our hand always to the negotiations with the Israelis," he said.
Despite the deadlocked talks, Abbas said he is "optimistic that 2011 will be the year of peace."
"The Palestinian people have suffered a lot. They need to live free in their own state and they hope this will be achieved in 2011," he said.
Earlier Friday, Abbas laid the cornerstone for a future Palestinian Embassy in Brazil.
"We seek peace. We demand this peace not only for our generation but also for our children, our grandchildren and their children," Abbas said at the ceremony. "We know the Israelis believe in this peace."
Brazil donated a plot of land in its embassy district in Brasilia — as it has done for nations in the past.
At the ceremony, white doves were released and a banner overhead read: "Palestinian Homeland" in Arabic.
Associated Press writers Marco Sibaja in Brasilia and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.