Abbas: Failure to free prisoners is breach of deal

Palestinian leader warns of action if Israeli officials do not follow through with fourth and final batch

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

RAMALLAH – Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas warned Saturday of action if Israel failed to release the fourth and final batch of veteran prisoners as agreed under a US-backed deal.

“We are awaiting the release of the fourth batch of prisoners, as agreed upon with the Israelis through the United States,” he told members of the central committee of his Fatah movement.

“We are saying, if they are not released, this is a violation of the agreement and allows us to act however we see fit within the norms of international agreements.”

Israel agreed to release a total of 104 long-term prisoners when talks kick-started by US Secretary of State John Kerry began in July.

It has freed 78 so far, nearly all of them who had been imprisoned for over 20 years.

But Israeli ministers have warned that should the Palestinians not agree to extend talks beyond their April 29 deadline, they will not release the remaining detainees as scheduled on March 29.

Earlier this month, Abbas said Palestinians will not agree to extend peace talks with Israel unless it releases more prisoners, including very senior ones, beyond the final batch.

On his trip to Washington this week, Abbas was said to reject Kerry’s framework document for continued peace talks with Israel, and issued “three no’s” on core issues, leaving the negotiations heading for an explosive collapse.

Abbas “went to the White House and said ‘no’ to Obama,” Channel 2 news reported, quoting unnamed American and Israeli sources.

Specifically, the report said, Abbas rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He also refused to abandon the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians and their descendants — a demand that, if implemented, would drastically alter Israel’s demographic balance and which no conceivable Israeli government would accept. And finally, he refused to commit to an “end of conflict,” under which a peace deal would represent the termination of any further Palestinian demands of Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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