Secretary of State Kerry to meet with Netanyahu, Abbas

Photo: Secretary of State Kerry to meet with Netanyahu, Abbas / Israel-Arab Relations

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel next week to the Middle East for meetings to push the ongoing final status talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the US State Department said Saturday in Washington, dpa reported.

Kerry was slated to leave Wednesday, New Year's Day, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

In Jerusalem, Kerry was to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A later meeting in Ramallah was planned with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The meetings next week come with a looming confrontation over a prisoner release scheduled for Sunday, a date set by both sides after restarting peace talks in July.

The Palestinian Authority warned Friday of "consequences" if Israel delays what would be the third round of releases of Palestinian prisoners.

As of late Saturday, an Israeli cabinet committee had yet to name the 26 prisoners slated for release. Israel has previously published the names with at least 48 hours of notice for the public to file complaints with the courts. That process could mean the releases would occur only Monday or Tuesday.

Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Issa Qaraqi told local media that the Palestinian government would not agree to any delay in the freeing of the prisoners.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat threatened to seek membership in UN organizations if Israel does not meet its commitment to release the prisoners.

A fourth and final prisoner release is planned for March, which would bring the total to 104 Palestinians freed.

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