By Laura Rozen, Politico – 3 Dec 2010
In a move that took Washington by surprise, Brazil has recognized the state of Palestine along the 1967 borders before Israel’s seizure of the West Bank, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry said in a notice posted to its website Friday.
Brazil’s outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva issued the recognition in a letter responding to a request from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Brazilian official told POLITICO.
“Considering the request made by Your Excellency is fair and consistent with the principles advocated by Brazil to the Palestine question, Brazil, through this letter, recognizes a Palestinian state on 1967 borders,” da Silva wrote in the letter to Abbas, dated Dec. 1.
“In doing so, I reiterate the understanding of the Brazilian government that only dialogue and peaceful coexistence with its neighbors will truly advance the Palestinian cause,” he wrote.
“The move surprised us,” a U.S. Latin American expert said Friday on condition of anonymity. “What we had heard is that the Brazilians were looking at this and talking to some people in the region about it.”
It was his understanding, he added, that the Israelis had only been told of the Brazilian decision on Thursday night, but “even then, it wasn’t clear that the letter made a firm commitment” to recognize Palestine. “Now it is.”
The Israelis learned of the Brazilian decision Thursday, an Israeli official confirmed.
Brazil was the last of the so-called BRIC nations [Brazil, Russia, India, China] to recognize Palestine. More than 100 countries, including almost all the African and Arabic ones, had recognized it, “so it was the natural thing to do,” a Brazilian official explained to POLITICO.
In an interview this week, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told POLITICO that he more than once personally conveyed messages between Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seeking third country back channels to convey messages on the terms for restarting Syrian-Israeli indirect peace talks, which were mediated by Turkey but broke off during Israel’s late 2008 war against Hamas in Gaza.
Da Silva made an historic three-day visit to Israel last March, becoming the first Brazilian head of state to travel to the country.