Abbas: Israel Avoiding Prisoner Release

President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday said that the Israeli government is trying to get out of releasing a fourth group of veteran Palestinian prisoners.

“The Israeli government is trying to dodge an agreement it had with the US administration to release pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners,” Abbas said in remarks to an Arab League summit in Kuwait.

He said Israel was responsible for not making progress in the negotiations.

“The Israeli government took every chance to foil the American efforts. This proves what we say about the lack of seriousness and preparedness of the Israeli government to withdraw and create peace.”

Abbas rejected partitioning the al-Aqsa mosque either physically or by imposing a schedule in which Jews and Muslims be able to worship separately.

“There is coordination with Jordan, which supports the Islamic endowments in Jerusalem, and Morocco which leads the al-Quds (Jerusalem) committee in order not to let that happen.”

Earlier Tuesday, Palestinian leaders threatened to renew their diplomatic push at the United Nations if Israel fails to free Palestinian prisoners as scheduled this weekend.

When US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace resumed in July, Abbas agreed that for their nine-month duration he would shelve efforts to use the UN’s November 2012 recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer to press for membership in international bodies where it could fight Israeli occupation.

In exchange for the diplomatic ceasefire Israel was to release 104 Palestinians imprisoned since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords between the sides.

It has so far freed 78 with the final batch due for release on March 29.

“We shall turn to the UN’s international organizations if Israel does not release the fourth and final group of prisoners,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.

“The release of the prisoners is in return for the freeze on seeking membership in international organizations,” he told official Voice of Palestine radio.

Israel wants the so-far inconclusive peace talks extended beyond their April 29 deadline and ministers have warned that should the Palestinians refuse, the remaining prisoners will not be freed.

“If Israel were to refuse to free the fourth batch it would have serious consequences, including initiatives at the United Nations,” former Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayeh, said in a statement.

Israel particularly objects to the Palestinians’ demand for Arab Israelis or Palestinian residents of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem convicted of militant acts to be included in the release, even though both groups were included in a 2011 swap of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

A senior Palestinian official told AFP on the condition of anonymity that in recent talks with US special envoy Martin Indyk, Abbas warned that if the April 29 talks deadline was not met “Israel would be in violation of agreements and (the Palestinians) would have the right to turn to the UN and to take any measures it deems necessary.”

(Ma’an and agencies –

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