Merkel with Abbas - Reuters - May 5, 2011
German Chancellor Angela Merkel with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin on May 5, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state during talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin on Thursday.

"We do not think that unilateral steps are helpful," the chancellor said, while encouraging an "urgent" return to peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Given the very changed situation across the entire North African region, I think a peaceful solution is even more urgent ... than it has been for a long time," Merkel said.

Following Wednesday's reconciliation between Abbas's Fatah and Islamist Hamas, Merkel warned that the Palestinian authorities must respect three criteria - the recognition of Israel's right to exist, a rejection of violence and a commitment to the negotiation process.

Abbas insisted that he remained the president of all Palestinian people - including Hamas - and would continue to conduct the political process on all their behalf.

"Signing the reconciliation between the Palestinians will have no effect on the peace process, quite the opposite," Abbas said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier told French daily l'Express, "If the peace process is still virtually dead in September, France will take its responsibility on the issue of recognizing the Palestinian state."

More than 110 states have recognized an independent Palestinian state, including several eastern EU members as well as Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa.

Should the United Nations Security Council veto a request for recognition, Abbas plans to put the question to the UN General Assembly in September.

"We cannot tell the United Nations, 'You have to accept this.'," Abbas said.

"We are telling the world, this is the situation. We want to be an independent state, what do you think? Can you accept that the Palestinian people remain occupied? That is the question."