The Chilean foreign minister Alfredo Moreno has announced that Chile will recognize Palestine as a ‘free, independent and sovereign’ state. This decision follows similar announcements by Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador in recent weeks. According to the Palestinian diplomatic mission at the UN, some 104 countries now recognize the Palestinian state, including most Latin American countries.
Chile has one of the world’s largest Palestinian communities outside the Middle East. Chilean president Sebastián Piñera says that his country is contributing to find a solution that would allow a Palestinian state and a state of Israel to co-exist peacefully in the Middle East.
Foreign minister Moreno has said that recognition was based on UN resolutions regarding the conflict with Israel. ‘Many resolutions refer to the Occupied Territories, so that there already is a basis for conversation,’ he told Radio Cooperativa. The UN has encouraged a peaceful resolution of conflict and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Occupied Territories.
The Palestinian ambassador in the country, Kaila Mai, welcomed the announcement: ‘Chile recognizes the Palestinian state, according to UN resolutions, leading to the borders of 4 June 1967.’
However, Moreno did not explicitly acknowledge Palestinian borders prior to the 1967 conflict with Israel, when the latter took control of Gaza and the West Bank. Other Latin American countries recognized the Palestinian state within 1967 borders, prior to Israel’s occupation.
This deliberate omission caused a senior leader of the Chilean Jewish community, lawyer Gabriel Zaliasnik, to note that Chile has opted for a prudent and moderate course that is different from Argentina and Brazil: ‘That’s why we appreciate the government’s official position.’
A senior Israeli official told AFP ‘off the record’ that the Latin American recognition ‘is a useless and meaningless gesture because it will not change anything in the real situation, and at the same time will not move at all the cause of peace.’
It was Brazil’s now former president, Lula da Silva, who set off the domino effect in December last year. Lula clearly marked his country’s position as very different from that of the US, which called the decision of Brasilia and Buenos Aires ‘premature’.
In March, President Piñera will visit Israel and Palestine to reaffirm his support for peace negotiations. Other Latin American countries, such as Peru and Paraguay, are expected to officially recognize the Palestinian state in the few next months.