Speaking in Paris on Monday after a meeting with the Arab League, US Secretary of State John Kerry said talks between Israelis and Palestinians were intensifying and that all core issues were on the table.
Kerry was briefing the 22-member league on the progress of peace negotiations, which resumed in July.
“The two parties have been engaged now in 13 meetings — serious meetings. They had three meetings in the last four days,” Kerry told reporters. “All the core issues are on the table. And they have been meeting with increased intensity.”
He also used the opportunity, a joint press conference with the Qatari foreign minister, to announce that Qatar was forgiving $150 million in Palestinian Authority debt.
Kerry praised the Gulf state for the measure, saying that “for everybody to live up to the challenges of making peace, we have to support them, including living up to our obligations on the economic front,” reported Reuters.
“I’m confident that other Arab governments are currently evaluating and making their decisions and there will be others that join in this initiative as we go forward,” Kerry added.
Israel is expected to release a second group of 30 Palestinian prisoners on October 29, Palestinian and Israeli sources told The Times of Israel Monday.
The batch will include more members of the group of 104 pre-Oslo Peace Accords inmates Israel has pledged to release, contingent on progress in the talks. Twenty-six prisoners were released in the first wave on August 13, just after talks started.
The most dangerous prisoners would be banished to the Gaza Strip, Yedioth Ahronoth reported. The government still has not approved the release, the paper said.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to confirm the reports, but said a public notice would be sent out before any prisoner release and that it would not be done in the dead of night.
Israel agreed in July to a four-stage release of 104 prisoners, many of whom were convicted of brutal murders, serving sentences for acts of terror committed before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. The agreement was intended as a sign of good faith.
Lazar Berman and Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.