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Abbas meets with Fatah officials to discuss peace talks

March 31, 2014 8:32 P.M. (Updated: April 2, 2014 12:02 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas met with Fatah officials Monday to discuss the latest developments in peace negotiations with Israel, a Fatah official said Monday.

Fatah Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yousef told Ma'an that the meeting would be comprised of 40 Fatah officials and members.

The speech was to focus partly on a PLO response to Israel's failure to release a fourth batch of Palestinian veteran prisoners, Abu Yousef said.

He personally ruled out the extension of peace talks past the April 29 deadline, but said Abbas had not mentioned the issue in a speech on Sunday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who cut short his Paris visit in an attempt to salvage talks, is scheduled to meet with Abbas Monday evening, Abu Yousef said.

Israel was scheduled to release the final group of prisoners on Saturday, but did not.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that debate with the PLO over the prisoner release could go on for "a number of days," the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post reported on its website.

Netanyahu said at a meeting with members of his right-wing Likud party that prisoners would not be freed "without a clear benefit for Israel in return," the report said.

So far, 78 of a total of 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners have been freed in three separate tranches.

Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians were relaunched in July under the auspices of the US after nearly three years of impasse.

Israel's government has announced the construction of thousands of settler housing units and its army has killed 60 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since the negotiations began.
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