The British government has reiterated its readiness to engage with any Palestinian administration that rejects violence and recognises Israel’s right to exist, in the wake of the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah.

However, the foreign office has so far not followed the Americans’ lead in expressing disappointment at the deal signed yesterday or publically spoken of its inevitably adverse impact on the peace process.

Offering Britain’s first reaction to the Palestinian agreement, shortly before Benjamin Netanyahu announced a halt to peace talks while Abbas is allied to Hamas, a foreign office spokesman said: “We continue to support fully Secretary Kerry’s efforts towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“For a lasting peace, it will be necessary to end the separation between Gaza and the West Bank and reunite them under the Palestinian Authority.  It is also essential that the Palestinian Authority remains fully committed to peace with Israel.

“We have made it consistently clear that we will engage any Palestinian government that shows through both their words and actions that they are committed to the principles set out by President Abbas in Cairo in May 2011.  This means that the Palestinian Authority should continue to uphold the principle of non-violence, and remain committed to achieving a two-state solution and to a negotiated peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, accepting previous agreements and obligations, including Israel’s legitimate right to exist.”

US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said yesterday:  “It is hard to see how Israel will negotiate with a government that does not recognise its right to exist. The Palestinian reconciliation deal raises concerns and could complicate the efforts to extend peace talks.”