No unilateral recognition of Palestinian state: Berlin

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Germany stressed Wednesday that it would not recognise a Palestinian state without Israel's acceptance after French President Nicolas Sarkozy hinted he could do so this year.

Ahead of a visit by Palestinian premier Mahmud Abbas, fresh from a Cairo reconciliation ceremony with Hamas, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin's position had not changed when asked about Sarkozy's remarks.

"The policy of the German government remains what Chancellor (Angela) Merkel said after talks with Israel's Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu in April: that in her view, a unilateral recognition would not contribute to the goal" of a two-state solution, he told a regular government news conference.

Sarkozy said in an interview with L'Express magazine published Wednesday that France might recognise an independent Palestinian state this year if peace talks are not back on track by September.

"If the peace process is still dead in September, France will face up to its responsibilities on the central question of recognition of a Palestinian state," he was quoted as saying.

"The idea that there is still plenty of time is dangerous. Things have to be brought to a conclusion" before a UN gathering in September, he added.

US-brokered peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians in September broke down over Israeli settlement activity.

The Palestinians are standing by a target date of September for declaring an independent state.

Sarkozy said European powers planned in the next few months "to relaunch the peace process along with the Americans, because Europe cannot be the main one paying for Palestine and yet remain a minor figure politically in the matter."

Merkel had said after her talks with Netanyahu last month that any German recognition of a Palestinian state would have to come in the context of mutual Israeli-Palestinian recognition.

Germany currently holds a non-permanent seat in the Security Council.

Abbas was due in Berlin later Wednesday for talks with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle before meeting Merkel Thursday.

Netanyahu branded the accord between Abbas's Fatah and the hardline Hamas a "tremendous blow to peace" Wednesday when he began visits to Britain and France fighting to head off UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

© 2011 AFP

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