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Erekat: Prisoners to be released in 4 stages

Aug. 3, 2013 3:23 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 6, 2013 4:55 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Long-serving Palestinian prisoners will be released in four stages by Israel, PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said Saturday.

The first stage will see 26 prisoners released on August 13, the PLO official told Ma'an. Israel refused to release all detainees at the same time, he added.

The Palestinian leadership has informed Israel and the United States that all final status issues must be put on the negotiating table, including Jerusalem, refugees, water and settlements, Erekat said.

The prisoner release was approved by Israel's cabinet last week and will see 104 veteran Palestinian and Israeli-Palestinian prisoners freed.

Last week, the Palestinian Prisoners Society published a list of detainees expected to be freed as part of the deal.

Israel says the release is a gesture as the two sides agreed to meet to pave the way for their first direct talks in three years.

The next round of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will take place in the region during the second week of August, Israel's negotiator Tzipi Livni, said Saturday.

On Wednesday, Livni said she was "encouraged" by the first round of direct peace talks with the Palestinians held in Washington at the start of this week after months of dogged US diplomacy ended a three-year hiatus.

All major Palestinian political factions, with the exception of Fatah, have rallied against a return to negotiations.

The last direct talks between the two parties collapsed in September 2010 amid continued illegal Israeli settlement building.
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