Israel-Palestine prisoner deal to revive talks

2014-04-10 21:14
An Israeli flag is seen in front of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (File, AP)

An Israeli flag is seen in front of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (File, AP)

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Jerusalem - Israel and the Palestinians were on the verge of a deal to extend US-backed peace talks, a report on Israeli television said on Thursday, as deadlocked negotiations faltered.

The deal, which could be finalised within "a few days", would see a final batch of Palestinian prisoners released in return for the United States freeing American-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, Channel 2 television said.

It cited "sources in Washington" as saying that "the parties are to sign an agreement to extend negotiations beyond [their deadline of] 29 April".

"According to the source, the agreement will include the release of Palestinian prisoners, including Arab-Israelis, in exchange for the release of Jewish American spy Jonathan Pollard," the report said.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were meeting on Thursday in US-mediated discussions to try to break a stalemate in the crisis-hit peace talks, a Palestinian official said.

The Palestinians were pushing for the release of a final batch of prisoners, the official said, a commitment Israel reneged on at the end of March in a move which sparked the latest impasse.

An Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity that "Israel wants to return to talks and overcome the current crisis".

Israel refused to release 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners, going back on a pledge it made at the beginning of talks that US Secretary of State John Kerry kick-started in July.

The Palestinians responded by abandoning their own commitment not to seek international recognition until the talks finished on 29 April, applying for membership of 15 international treaties.

Kerry on Tuesday blamed Israel for the crisis, saying its 1 April approval of 708 Jewish settlement homes in east Jerusalem derailed plans for the prisoner release.

The Israelis have repeatedly asked Barack Obama and previous US presidents to release Pollard, who is serving his sentence in North Carolina for passing US secrets on Arab and Pakistani weapons to Israel during the mid-1980s.

Pollard, who was given a life sentence in 1987, is eligible for release from November next year.

Read more on:    palestine  |  israel
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