News Middle East

Monday 22 September 2014

Israel to release 26 prisoners in renewed peace bid

David Blair

Published 10/04/2014 | 02:30

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A Palestinian protester holds up a placard with an Arabic slogan that rejects linking the issue of the prisoners to the extension of the peace negotiations with Israel during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Nablus on April 7, 2014. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were to meet again today in a fresh effort to salvage the teetering US-brokered peace talks, US and Palestinian officials said. AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH

        (Photo credit should read JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian protester holds up a placard with an Arabic slogan that rejects linking the issue of the prisoners to the extension of the peace talks with Israel

Israel has proposed a deal to rescue peace talks, offering to release 26 prisoners if the Palestinian leadership "cancels" its bid for greater international recognition.

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Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli strategic affairs minister, said it could be a way of continuing the negotiations brokered by John Kerry, the US secretary of state.

His words suggest there is a possible opening to prevent the imminent collapse of the peace process, which had appeared to be in tatters last month when Israel failed to release 26 prisoners, prompting the Palestinians to sign up to 15 United Nations conventions.

Under the US-mediated agreement last year, Israel promised to free 104 prisoners in four groups of 26. The Palestinians had agreed not to use their upgraded membership of the UN to sign any international conventions.

CONFIDENCE

Asked whether there were any circumstances under which Israel would release the final group of prisoners, Mr Steinitz said: "We have to have the confidence that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president] is ready to promote real peace and to conduct these very complicated peace talks."

The Palestinian leadership want 14 Arab Israeli prisoners, convicted of terrorist offences, to be among those released. The acutely sensitive question of whether to free Israeli citizens threatens the survival of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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