Kerry holds new talks with Netanyahu
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in charge of spearheading the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. (AFP/File)
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US Secretary of State John Kerry has held a second round of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of efforts to push forward the peace talks between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority.
The meeting took place on Tuesday morning following Kerry’s surprise visit to Israel as he seeks to keep the talks on track.
Kerry was supposed to meet with acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas on Monday. But, the meeting was cancelled because Kerry’s first meeting with Netanyahu dragged on too late on Monday.
The top US diplomat instead met with the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Negotiations between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority are teetering on the edge of collapse over a dispute about the fate of 26 Palestinian prisoners.
Israel has not released the prisoners despite its agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli officials said they would not move forward with the release without a firm commitment from Palestinians to continue the talks.
Palestinian officials have warned of ending the talks, unless Israel changes its stance on the prisoner releases.
"If we don't get an answer from John Kerry on the prisoners tonight, we'll begin to ask for membership in all UN agencies tomorrow (Tuesday)," independent Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghuti told AFP.
According to earlier reports, the US could free an Israeli spy serving a life sentence as part of a deal to salvage Middle East talks.
The deal might allow Jonathan Pollard, a former Navy analyst convicted of spying for Israel in the 1980s, to be freed.
Meanwhile, Israel on Monday called for an extension of the talks after the April 29 expiry of a nine-month deadline for the two sides to reach a deal.
The last round of negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel broke down in 2010 after Tel Aviv refused to halt its settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
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