"We [Venezuelans] should devote the entire force of our hearts and souls towards the creation of a Palestinian state.

"Venezuela is Palestine; Palestine is Venezuela, we have a common struggle."

Palestinian ally

Venezuela is seen as one of the strongest supporters of the Palestinian cause, but its leader has also been accused of anti-Semitism, particularly after he expelled all Israeli diplomats from the country earlier this year.

Caracas also cut diplomatic relations with Israel in January in protest against Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Several months later, Palestinian officials opened a diplomatic mission in Venezuela, and on Friday Chavez announced the decision to appoint a Venezuelan ambassador to the West Bank.

"We have decided to designate an ambassador and open an embassy in Palestine," Chavez said after talks with Abbas, the Reuters news agency reported.

"We now have a charge d'affaires; we will name an ambassador in coming days as part of accords to boost our bilateral relations," he said.

The two sides also signed a series of co-operation agreements, with Venezuelan officials stressing that they were signing them withthe State of Palestine, which Caracas has already recognised as a sovereign nation.

The agreements included initiatives to increase trade and create student exchange programmes.