The State Dept. has expressed new concerns over Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ declaration that reconciliation talks with Hamas are progressing and that he will head a new unity government.

U.S. State Department spokesman Olivia Nuland told a reporter who asked if unity would be a positive step, “If Hamas takes positions in the government, it will be very difficult if they do not do what is necessary, including recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and all of those other things that we regularly state.”

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Pressed it Abbas’ remarks “are helpful to the prospects for peace talks” on the even of President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel next month, she politely said, “You know where we are on this issue. Our position has not changed.”

The Palestinian Authority electoral commission last week began updating voter registration lists in Judea, Samaria and Gaza with the aim of holding new elections before the summer.

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