Livni: Prisoner release depends on Abbas
Chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni said Tuesday that the Palestinian president's decision on peace talks will determine whether Israel will release a new group of prisoners, according to Agence France Presse.
"In order to advance serious negotiations, we will all need to take decisions and prove we are determined to reach an agreement and real peace. That burden of proof is also on the Palestinians' shoulders. Accordingly, we will examine the issue of the prisoners, meaning that the key to the cells of the Palestinian prisoners is also to be found in the hands of Abu Mazen (Abbas) and the decisions he will take in the coming day," Livni was quoted from her Facebook page.
The negotiator's comments come ahead of the scheduled March 29 release of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners agreed to under the push for continued peace talks.
Prisoner releases have been a key piece of the peace talks, with 78 prisoners released so far in three separate tranches.
The peace talks have been enveloped in controversy and debate over the past few months due to Israeli settlement construction plans as well as Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's commentary about the negotiations while in Washington earlier this month, dimming prospects for a successful deal to extend the talks past the April deadline.
Suggestions that Israel may not follow through with the release have further exacerbated tensions, with Washington working hard behind the scenes to head off a crisis that could deal a death blow to the fragile dialogue between the sides.