February 20, 2011 By

Middle-East Peace Talks: Israel Refuses to Release Palestinian Prisoners

John-Kerry--016Israel has called off the release of Palestinian prisoners worsening the crisis in the US –led peace talks. The latest announcement in response to Palestine’s resumption of a campaign for the UN recognition of the state has further delayed US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s goal of extending the negotiations past a late April deadline.

Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, said the Palestinians’ decision to seek accession to 15 international conventions through the UN violated the terms of the promised prisoner release. The Palestinians submitted their applications after Israel failed to carry out the promised release of the prisoners, by the end of March. Israel carried out the first three prisoner releases, but paused at the final one demanding assurances that the Palestinians would extend negotiations.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Israeli move “creates problems” but asserted that the US-led peace efforts would continue.  Earlier on Thursday, Kerry urged both sides to stay away from moves that would prevent the negotiations from failing adding that it would be a “tragedy” if the talks failed.

Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks in last July under heavy pressure from Kerry and agreeing to a nine-month negotiating period with the aim of reaching a final peace deal. Based on the negotiations, Israel promised to release 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in four groups, while the Palestinians were to put on hold their campaign for joining the UN agencies.

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