The Palestinians have told US Secretary of State John Kerry he has until Tuesday to settle a dispute with Israel over the release of prisoners. Kerry is in the Middle East to revive stalled peace talks.
The US peace plan is on the brink of collapse after Israel failed to release 26 Palestinians under an accord that saw both sides come back to the negotiating table in July 2013.
Palestinian representatives warned Monday that unless Israel alters its position on the release of prisoners, it may signal an end to the peace talks.
“If we don’t get an answer from John Kerry on the prisoners tonight, we’ll begin to ask for membership in all UN agencies tomorrow (Tuesday),” independent Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghuti told the Associated Press news agency.
Israel had agreed to free 104 prisoners in four stages, but following their refusal to release the fourth and final group of detainees on March 29, Palestinian officials warned Israel “would bear the consequences” of its decisions.
Kerry made an unscheduled trip to the Middle East in a bid to revive stalled peace negotiations on Monday.
He held two-hour talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured, left). His meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, originally planned also for Monday night in Ramallah, was postponed until Tuesday. Kerry instead met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat at his Jerusalem hotel.
So far talks between the two sides, scheduled to close on April 29, have failed to bear any results. The US is focused on getting both sides to agree to an extension until next year.
The focus of the talks appears to have shifted from reaching a framework agreement by the end of April that was to include general principles for a final peace deal, to ensuring both sides continue talks beyond the deadline.
Kerry is scheduled to hold additional talks with Netanyahu on Tuesday, before travelling to a NATO meeting in Brussels.
jlw/lw (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)