UN chief welcomes decision to hold Palestinian polls

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has welcomed a decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hold presidential and legislative elections for the first time in 14 years.

"The holding of elections in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza will be a crucial step towards Palestinian unity," Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for Guterres, said in a statement.

The UN chief said he hoped that the planned parliamentary elections in May, and presidential vote in July, would "contribute to restarting a process towards a negotiated two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, and in accordance with relevant UN resolutions, bilateral agreements and international law".

He said the UN stood ready to support all efforts on the part of Palestinians to be able to exercise their full democratic rights, going on to call on the Palestinian authorities "to facilitate, strengthen and support women's political participation throughout the electoral cycle".

On Friday, Abbas issued a decree to set the dates for holding the Palestinian general elections. The last Palestinian presidential election was held in 2005, which brought Abbas to the Palestinian Authority, while the parliamentary polls which were held in 2006 gave the Hamas group the majority in parliament

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