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Secret talks held over release of pre-Oslo prisoners

June 28, 2013 11:51 A.M. (Updated: July 3, 2013 7:06 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli and Palestinian officials have held secret talks to discuss the release of prisoners detained before the 1993 Oslo Accords, an official said Friday.

President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted that 107 Palestinians detained before the Oslo agreement must be released before the PLO will return to negotiations with Israel.

Amin Shuman, director of the High Coordination Committee for Prisoners' Release, told Ma'an that the closed-door talks related to this condition, adding that the ongoing detention of the long-term prisoners violated all international laws and conventions.

Political analyst Hani al-Masri said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to release the prisoners in three stages during negotiations, to ensure the PLO remains in peace talks.

PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Ma'an the release of prisoners detained before 1993 was part of the 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh memorandum and that Israel was obliged to abide by it.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is in the region for his fifth visit to try and revive peace negotiations.

He met for nearly four hours into Friday morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is due to have lunch with President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Friday.

Kerry is seeking to break a three-year stalemate and restart direct negotiations that would ultimately lead to an independent Palestinian state.

During a visit in April, Abbas told Kerry that releasing prisoners was a "top priority" for resuming talks with Israel.

"President Abbas made a passionate argument to me about the prisoners and I think the government of Israel has a full understanding of the potency of that issue," Kerry said at the time.
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