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March 30, 2017

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Palestinian unity government will reject violence, recognize Israel: Abbas

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories -- Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that the new unity government he is set to head with the backing of Hamas would reject violence and recognize Israel and existing agreements.

Abbas was speaking the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council, which had convened to chart a course of action after Israel suspended U.S.-brokered peace talks in response to the deal with Hamas.

Israel said it would not negotiate with a government backed by Hamas, the armed Islamist movement ruling the Gaza Strip, which is pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state and has always rejected peace talks.

"The upcoming government will obey my policy," Abbas told members of his PLO on Saturday. "I recognize Israel and reject violence and terrorism, and recognize international commitments."

And Abbas stressed that the new government would not be charged with negotiations, but the PLO, which "represents the entire Palestinian people."

The PLO is the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinians and their interlocutor in peace talks.

The Palestinian Authority was created as part of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s to administer the occupied Palestinian territories.

Abbas heads both, as well as the secular Fatah party, which dominates the PLO.

Under the Wednesday PLO-Hamas agreement, Abbas would head an "independent government" of technocrats, to be formed within five weeks.

That new interim administration would be charged with holding parliamentary and presidential elections within six months of taking office.

Israel and Western nations view Hamas as a terrorist organization, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas must choose between reconciling with the Islamist group and negotiating peace with his country.

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