Israel, Palestinians to hold peace talks with U.S. envoy

Photo: Israel, Palestinians to hold peace talks with U.S. envoy / Israel-Arab Relations

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were to hold a meeting Thursday with U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, in a bid to find a way to extend their faltering peace talks, Al Arabiya reported.

The meeting had been put off by a day, with Israel implying the delay was due to the killing of an Israeli police officer in the West Bank.

But the Palestinians said it was to enable the participation of US envoy Martin Indyk.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met on their own on Sunday and held a three-way meeting with Indyk a week ago, in last-ditch efforts to save the stagnant peace process, launched by US Secretary of State John Kerry in July for a period of nine months.

Washington was pushing for an extension of talks beyond their April 29 deadline, but negotiations hit an impasse two weeks ago when Israel refused to release a group of Palestinian prisoners as agreed at the launch of talks.

The Palestinians retaliated by seeking accession to several international treaties.

Despite the crisis, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina stressed the talks could be extended if Israel released the 26 prisoners, the last batch of a total of 104 veteran prisoners Israel agreed to free.

"What's needed now is Israel's commitment on issues that could lead to an extension of talks. If they commit, we're ready," he said on Wednesday.

And Abbas told Israeli opposition MPs visiting him in the West Bank administrative center of Ramallah he would insist that 14 Arab Israelis were among those released, according to Haaretz newspaper.

The report said if talks were extended, Abbas would want the first three months to be "devoted to a serious discussion of borders."

The Palestinians want a state based on the lines that existed before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War.

According to Channel 2 television, Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency head called for 10 of the 26 prisoners slated for release to be deported abroad or transferred to the Gaza Strip.

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Tags: USA, Palestine, Israel