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Israel scraps Palestinian prisoner release in blow to peace talks

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-03

Israel has cancelled plans to release Palestinian prisoners and has called for US-sponsored peace talks to be reviewed, an official said Thursday.

The official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters that Israeli negotiators had informed their Palestinian counterparts of the decision in an overnight meeting held in an effort to avert a collapse of the troubled talks.

The decision to scrap the planned release of a fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners came after Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour said Wednesday the territory had submitted official requests to join 15 UN conventions and treaties.

He said the move was a response to Israel’s failure to release the prisoners by the agreed Tuesday deadline.

Under a deal that re-launched peace talks last July, Israel promised to release 104 prisoners held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for a Palestinian agreement not to push for recognition of statehood at the United Nations.

“The Israelis breached that agreement when they did not release a fourth batch of prisoners by noon yesterday,” Mansour told FRANCE 24. “That is why we are doing what we are doing today.”

“If Israel wishes to provoke us further, then we will continue to seek the membership of other international treaties and agencies,” he said.

Kerry vows to continue peace efforts

The prisoner issue is an emotional one for Palestinians after decades of conflict with Israel. Palestinians generally view them as heroes, regardless of the reason for their imprisonment – even when their crimes have involved grisly killings. Israelis mostly view them as terrorists because of their attacks on civilians.

The impasse over the prisoners throws further doubts about the outcome of the US-led peace negotiations helmed by Secretary of State John Kerry. The talks had been scheduled to last until late April, but now both sides appear to have hardened their positions while questioning the effectiveness of Kerry’s efforts.

Speaking earlier Thursday during a visit to Algeria, Kerry called it a “critical moment” for the peace process and vowed to continue his efforts “no matter what.”

“You can facilitate, you can push, you can nudge, but the parties themselves have to make fundamental decisions and compromises,” Kerry said. “The leaders have to lead and they have to be able to see a moment when it’s there.”

He recalled the old adage that you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink.

“Now is the time to drink,” Kerry said. “The leaders need to know that.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-04-03

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