|Brazil became the first country in the western hemisphere to lay plans for a Palestinian embassy [AFP]
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has laid the cornerstone for an embassy in Brazil - what will be the first such Palestinian delegation in the western hemisphere.
A ceremony was held on Friday to initiate the building's construction in Brasilia, the capital, and Abbas thanked Brazil for recognising his naiton's statehood, adding that other countries were following suit.
"We thank Brazil for its support in the construction of a Palestine state. This is a favour we will never forget," Abbas said.
Brazil was the first of several South American countries in recent weeks to recognise a Palestinian state along pre-1967 borders.
Since then Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador have done the same. Chile, Mexico, Peru and Nicaragua are said to be considering recognition.
Israel says the moves are "seriously harmful" to the Middle East peace process and Washington has called them "premature".
However, direct peace talks revived by Washington in September after a year's suspension collapsed within weeks, and a US-backed drive to keep the process alive is in limbo.
Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Brazil's capital Brasilia, said that Brazil's growing international influence is reflected in their recognition of a Palestinian state.
"When Brazil openly proclaims its recognition of Palestine, it does so because of its growing clout," he said.
In the face of US opposition to a unilateral declaration, Palestinian diplomats are lobbying for widespread recognition of a state within the 1967 borders, recognised by the global community as Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said in a recent interview with local radio that as and when such support reaches critical mass his government is hoping to take their campaign to the UN Security Council (UNSC).
"At a certain point, broad international recognition of statehood will enable the Palestinian leadership to turn to the UNSC and request full membership of the UN," he said.
"The efforts now under way to get [individual] states to recognise statehood are in preparation for turning to the UNSC."
Should the UNSC push fail due to a veto by one of the permanent members - the US, Russia, France, China and Britain - Palestinians argue that they could use a rule applied in the past that allows for the same request to be put to the General Assembly.
A draft resolution by the Palestinians and Arab states calling for Israel to halt all settlement activities due to go before the UNSC shortly will show whether the US is willing to use its veto in support of Israel, as it has often done in the past.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the outgoing Brazilian president, has surprised many with his mediation efforts in the Middle East peace process.
He also angered Washington earlier this year when he held talks with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, over the country's nuclear programme.
In a further sign of growing pro-Palestinian sentiment in South America, Mercosur, the regional trade bloc, signed a trade agreement earlier this month with the Palestinian authority.
Bolivia broke ties with Israel in 2009 after an attack by the latter on the Palestinian territories.
Abbas will attend the swearing-in of Brazilian president-elect Dilma Rousseff on Saturday.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies