The British Government has finally condemned anti-Semitic language used by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, days after others reacted in horror.

Abbas’s comments came at the opening of the Palestinian National Congress, when he said Jews had been killed throughout history because of their “social function” in areas such as banking.

While American, Israeli and European leaders were quick to condemn the comments, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office took days to respond, finally releasing a statement on Thursday afternoon.

Middle East Minister Alistair Burt said: “The fundamentals of peace cannot be built on views of the Holocaust which fly in the face of history. Palestinian President Abbas’s comments were deeply concerning. Any attempt to justify or explain away any element of the Holocaust is unacceptable.”

He added: “President Abbas has shown a commitment to non-violence and a two-state solution. But his recent rhetoric does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people and is deeply unhelpful to the cause of peace.”

Abbas’s speech in Ramallah, where he said that Jews caused the Holocaust with their “social behaviour,” was slammed by Israeli President Rivlin.

“How can a leader who expresses such dark anti-Semitic ideas present himself as a partner in peace?” asked Rivlin. “Anti-Semitism doesn’t create a dialogue. There is no negotiating with anti-Semites.”

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said Abbas’s remarks were “unacceptable, deeply disturbing and do not serve the interests of the Palestinian people or peace in the Middle East”.

Abbas’s speech was attended by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who has promised that a Labour Government would “formally recognise the State of Palestine and urge other countries to do the same”.

A spokesman for pro-Israel think-tank BICOM said she had not mentioned Abbas’s anti-Semitic statements “despite posting a lengthy statement on Facebook about her experiences”.

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