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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 13:47 GMT
Merkel urges Israel recognition
Abbas and Merkel
Abbas has agreed a unity government with militant rivals Hamas
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed the European Union's insistence that any new Palestinian government must recognise Israel.

She made the point, as holder of the EU presidency, to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who is visiting Berlin.

He wants the EU to lift a financial boycott on the Palestinian Authority.

The Quartet (Russia, the EU, the US and UN) say they will await the formation of a new unity cabinet with the Hamas militant group before any decision.

Mr Abbas wants Western support for the unity government which his Fatah party leadership agreed with Hamas in Mecca, Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

Germany has made reviving Middle East peacemaking a priority of its six-month term as EU leader.

Ms Merkel also urged Mr Abbas to help secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, as a first step towards resolving the conflict with Israel.

'A first step'

The Western ban on financial aid has crippled the Palestinian Authority since Hamas, which has refused to recognise Israel, won elections in January l2006.

"From our point of view, the boycott of the Palestinians was always an injustice and we have to find a solution to overcome these problems," Mr Abbas said on Thursday, after meeting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The Quartet met in Berlin on Wednesday and repeated that the Palestinian Authority must meet triple conditions of renouncing violence, recognising Israel and accepting earlier peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Abbas, who met Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem earlier this week, said the new administration was "a first and important step towards bringing the Palestinians together".

Factional fighting between Fatah and Hamas claimed more than 90 Palestinian lives between December and February.

He said the government would be committed to avoiding violence and terrorism.

Mr Abbas is due to complete his diplomatic tour with a trip to France.

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