( AP ) - The Palestinian prime minister urged Israel on Saturday to release 2,000 Palestinian prisoners ahead of a U.S.-hosted Mideast conference, saying it was time for bold steps to raise hopes for peace.
"I think we need to really begin to see some bold moves in the direction of dealing with those issues of the here and now, for the people to buy into the process," Salam Fayyad said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We need to rekindle signs of hope after years of deterioration."
Fayyad said Palestinian negotiators have asked for the release of 2,000 of the 12,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails ahead of the conference, to be held in coming weeks in Annapolis, Md. "We feel this is one area where a lot more can be done than has been done so far," he said.
The prime minister also urged Israel to agree to a timeline for negotiating a final peace deal. He said that negotiators made progress in previous talks that collapsed in January 2001, and that a final peace deal could be concluded in a matter of months.
He said that after 14 years of peace efforts, it was important to set a deadline.
Israel has balked at the idea, and U.S. mediators also appear cool to setting a timetable.