Colombia hailed for caution on Palestinian state

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has praised the "friendship and courage" of Colombia's president after he announced that he would not recognise a unilaterally declared Palestinian state before a peace settlement with Israel was reached.

President Juan Manuel Santos said it was "a matter of principle" that his country would not follow in the footsteps of eight of its South American neighbours. He made the promise during a meeting with a WJC delegation at a meeting in Bogota.

President Santos expressed his belief that peace in the Middle East required direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He also praised the Israeli and Jewish contributions to high tech and other research fields.

Ronald Lauder, president of the WJC, said: "We appreciate that you have withstood pressure from fellow Latin American leaders to prematurely recognise a Palestinian state."

The president of the Latin American Jewish Congress, Jack Terpins, who was also present at the meeting, spoke of Colombia's commitment to challenging Iranian threats. He said: "In Colombia, you know what horrible suffering terrorism inflicts on people.

"After the two deadly bomb attacks against the AMIA Centre and the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in the 1990s that were orchestrated by Iran, we Jews know that extremists must be vigorously opposed."

Mr Lauder invited President Santos to give the keynote address at the WJC governing board conference, to be held in Jerusalem in June.

In recent months, several countries have taken steps to change their diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority.

Britain upgraded the status of the Palestinian delegation to the UK to a mission in March, following similar moves by Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. In South America, countries including Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile have offered the Palestinians unilateral recognition.

    Last updated: 1:01pm, April 1 2011