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Abbas agrees to extend peace talks 'under conditions'

March 24, 2014 3:00 P.M. (Updated: March 31, 2014 1:30 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to extend peace talks with Israel if certain conditions are met, a Palestinian official said Monday.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Ma'an that during a recent meeting with US President Barack Obama Abbas agreed to extend peace negotiations if Israel pledged to freeze settlement construction and release more prisoners.

A good test to see if Israel is serious about making concessions, the official said, will be whether it releases the last of the four groups of prisoners it agreed to free before talks began in July.

So far, 78 of 104 Palestinian veteran prisoners have been freed in three groups, with the final 26 to be released on March 29. However, recent statements by Israeli officials have cast doubt on whether the prisoners would be released on time, if at all.

The official said that if Israel delayed the release of the last group of pre-Oslo prisoners, the Palestinian Authority would immediately take the case to international organizations.

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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