UPDATED: Abbas says Holocaust 'most heinous crime' of modern era

AFP , Sunday 27 Apr 2014

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: AP)

The mass killing of Jews in the Holocaust was "the most heinous crime" against humanity of the modern era, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Sunday in his strongest remarks yet on the Nazi genocide.

The statement comes at a sensitive time for US-led peace efforts, with Israel having suspended faltering talks last week after Abbas reached an agreement with the Islamist Hamas movement to form a unity government.

In a statement in English released just hours before Israel began marking Holocaust remembrance day, the Palestinian leader expressed sympathy with families of the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazi regime.

"What happened to the Jews in the Holocaust is the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era," Abbas said.

He also expressed his "sympathy with the families of the victims and many other innocent people who were killed by the Nazis."

The Palestinian leader's remarks, made in a statement following talks with an American rabbi promoting Jewish-Muslim understanding, came as Israel and the Palestinians fought a bitter war of words over the collapse of the peace talks.

"On the incredibly sad commemoration of Holocaust Day, we call on the Israeli government to seize the current opportunity to conclude a just and comprehensive peace in the region, based on the two states vision, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security," he said.

Israel will at sundown begin marking Holocaust memorial day, holding memorial events and two minutes silence to remember the victims of the Nazi genocide.

Abbas has condemned the Holocaust in the past, while some officials from Hamas -- which is pledged to Israel's destruction -- have either denied or cast doubt on the scope of the genocide.

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