EU’s Borrell urges Israel to facilitate Palestinian vote

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The European Union on Saturday welcomed a promise by Palestinian leaders to hold their first elections in 15 years, urging Israel to facilitate the ballots.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said elections would be held in May and July, as part of a warming of ties between his Fatah party and its Islamist rival Hamas.

“This is a welcome development,” said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

He said the bloc “stands ready to cooperate with relevant actors to support the electoral process” and urged Israel to “facilitate the holding of these elections throughout the Palestinian territory.”

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The statement from Abbas said he expected polls to be held “in all governorates of Palestine, including east Jerusalem,” which was annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War but is considered occupied territory by much of the international community.

Israel bans all Palestinian Authority activity in east Jerusalem, and there was no indication Israel would allow a Palestinian vote within the city.

The 2005 Palestinian presidential vote saw Abbas elected with 62 percent support to replace the late Yasser Arafat.

In the last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas won an unexpected landslide.

The polls resulted in a brief unity government but it soon collapsed and in 2007, bloody clashes erupted in the Gaza Strip between the two principal Palestinian factions, with Hamas ultimately seizing control of Gaza.

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