EU Welcomes Palestinian Unity, but Says Talks Still 'Top Priority'

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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.Credit: AP

The European Union says it welcomes the Palestinian reconciliation deal, which Hamas and Fatah announced on Wednesday, but emphasized that peace talks with Israel are still a top priority.

"The European Union believes that the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas is an important step toward a two-state solution,' Haaretz was told Thursday by Michael Mann, spokesperson of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. "But the top priority remains the continuation of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians."

The two main Palestinian factions announced Wednesday that they had signed a reconciliation agreement and intended establishing a government of national unity.

Mann said that the EU was closely following developments on the ground and looking into the details of the agreement and its implementation.

Various EU Foreign Minister Council conclusions (notably those of May 2011 and December 2012) had consistently called for intra-Palestinian reconciliation and the establishment of a unity government, based on the 4 May 2011 speech of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Mann said.

In that speech, Abbas outlined the principles of a national unity government: recognition of the state of Israel, non-violence and the honoring of existing agreements.

"The EU welcomes the prospect of genuine democratic elections for the president of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Legislative Council and the presidency of the Palestinian National Council," Mann said. But he stressed that the EU's top priority was the continuation of the current talks beyond April 29.

Israel has responded harshly to the Palestinian agreement, with the Foreign Ministry assessing that implementation was unlikely due to the gaps between Hamas and Fatah.

The political-security cabinet met Thursday morning to discuss the reconciliation agreement and to determine how to proceed with Israel's response.

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