Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has declared that the Holocaust was the most ‘heinous’ crime committed in modern times.
He made the statement in English, Spanish and Arabic on the website of Wafa, Palestine’s official news agency, as Israel began its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day.
He said: “The Holocaust is a reflection of the concept of ethnic discrimination and racism which the Palestinians strongly reject and act against.
He described Nazi atrocities as “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era.”
And added: “The world must do its utmost to fight racism and injustice in order to bring justice and equality to oppressed people wherever they are.”
Mr Abbas’s comments are believed to have been designed to court Israeli and international public opinion after the latest US attempt to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal failed.
Mr Abbas and his political rivals, the Islamist group Hamas, signed a landmark reconciliation deal last week.
Hamas remains committed to a war against Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained skeptical about the Palestinian president’s comments and intentions.
He said: “President Abbas can’t have it both ways.
“He can’t say the Holocaust is terrible but at the same time embrace those who deny the Holocaust and seek to perpetrate another destruction of the Jewish people.”
He said that Mr Abbas had to choose between peace with Hamas and peace with Israel.
“I think what President Abbas is trying to do is to placate Western public opinion that understands that he delivered a terrible blow to the peace process,” he said.
In the statement, Mr Abbas also called on Israel to use Holocaust Remembrance Day to commit to peace with the Palestinians.
He said: “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-state vision, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.”