The US House of Representatives late Wednesday approved a measure condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state, and backing a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The House measure comes after Brazil, and later Argentina and Uruguay, in early December recognized a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, the boundaries that existed before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The resolution, introduced by Democrat Howard Berman, reaffirms the "strong support" in the lower chamber of the US Congress "for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states, a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian state."
The text also "reaffirms its strong opposition to any attempt to establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians."
It urges Palestinian leaders to "cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process" and calls on foreign governments "not to extend such recognition."
One of the co-sponsors of the House measure was Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the incoming House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, who earlier condemned moves by the South American countries to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that such recognition by the South Americans was "counter-productive" to achieving Middle East peace.
The European Union on Monday stopped short of outright recognition of a Palestinian state despite mounting pressure to break the Middle East impasse, but did reaffirm its readiness to recognize such a state at an "appropriate" time.
Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed after Washington admitted it had failed to secure Israel's agreement to a new freeze on settlement building, the Palestinian condition for continuing to negotiate.
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell earlier this week held two days of talks with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to try to find a way to keep the sides engaged in the search for peace.
The US focus is now on new ideas, with Mitchell proposing six weeks of "parallel" talks, where negotiators would hold separate talks with the Americans in a format which would not be viewed as "negotiations," a Palestinian official told AFP on Wednesday.