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Published: Thursday May 15, 2014 MYT 7:25:14 AM
Updated: Thursday May 15, 2014 MYT 7:51:54 AM

Kerry discusses peace, unity government with Palestinian leader

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the media at the State Department in Washington May 13, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the media at the State Department in Washington May 13, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a two-hour discussion with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in London late on Wednesday in their first meeting since U.S. efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal collapsed last month.

During the meeting Kerry emphasized that the "door remains open to peace" talks although made clear it was up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take the necessary steps to resume talks, a senior State Department official said.

The official said Kerry urged both the Palestinians and Israelis to "refrain from unhelpful steps."

Abbas also updated Kerry on Palestinian political developments, the official said, referring to plans announced by Abbas last month to reconcile Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas into a unity government.

Israel suspended peace talks on April 24, furious about Abbas' unexpected unity pact with Hamas.

"Secretary Kerry reiterated the need for any Palestinian government to recognise Israel, commit to non-violence, and abide by previous agreements, and thanked President Abbas for his public commitment to these principles," the State Department official said.

U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, which runs at roughly $440 million to $500 million a year, may be affected by Palestinian plans for a unity government.

The prospect of a unity government with Hamas has caused further tensions with the Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Abbas to "tear up" his pact with Hamas, warning that Israel would not participate in Middle East peace talks with a Palestinian government that is backed by the Islamist group.

Kerry is in London for a meeting with Western and Gulf allies on Syria, in which turmoil in Ukraine is also likely to be discussed.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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