Palestinians give Kerry 24 hours to solve prisoner crisis
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry - REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinians on Monday gave US Secretary of State John Kerry 24 hours to resolve a dispute with Israel over prisoners after which they will resume moves to seek international recognition.

“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,” Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghuti told AFP following a top-level leadership meeting in Ramallah which took place as Kerry arrived in Israel.

US peace efforts are teetering on the brink of collapse after Israel refused to free a group of 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners under an agreement which brought the sides back to the negotiating table in July 2013.

Furious Palestinian officials have warned that unless Israel changes its stance on the prisoner releases, it could signal the end of the talks.

Another Palestinian official who attended the meeting in Ramallah told AFP “the Israeli government violated the agreements and must bear the consequences of its decisions”.

The two Palestinian officials also said that the leadership had confirmed there was “no link between the release of Palestinian prisoners and the extension of negotiations.”

Top officials also agreed there would be no extension of talks without a “comprehensive” freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, they said.

The peace talks, which have so far yielded no obvious results, are due to draw to a close on April 29 and US efforts are currently focused on getting the parties to agree an extension.

Kerry arrived on Monday evening from Paris for a flying visit and was locked in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a late-night meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

He was to return to Europe on Tuesday morning, officials said.

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