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PA to discuss prisoner release

March 30, 2014 11:24 P.M. (Updated: April 1, 2014 12:08 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian leadership will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss further steps if Israel does not release a fourth group of veteran prisoners, the undersecretary of PA’s ministry of detainees said.

Ziad Abu Ein told Ma’an that the meeting was called to discuss steps that could be taken in case Israel reneges on the deal to release the last group of 30 Palestinian prisoners.

He added that Israel did not officially inform Palestinian officials of its intent not to release the prisoners, but they have informed the US that they want to release the fourth group on the condition that negotiations are extended, and that the PA decides not to seek standing in international organizations.

Abu Ein added that there are proposal to release other prisoners but refused to elaborate, adding that President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to discuss anything until the prisoners are released.

Abu Ein ruled out the possibility of releasing the prisoners in the next two days, saying that their names need to be made public 48 hours before their release.

He said chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is having on-going discussion with the US ambassador on the issue.

Erekat said a day earlier that Abbas has been exerting all efforts to negotiate the release of the fourth group.

Israel "must release the fourth batch" of prisoners, held in Israeli jails since before the 1993 Oslo Accords, Erekat said Sunday.

The deal at the beginning of the negotiations was for Israel to release 104 veteran prisoners in exchange for the PLO's pledge not to attempt a statehood bid at the UN or other international bodies, Erekat reiterated.

He said the PLO was involved in "sensitive talks" with the US and the Israel, but that he could not reveal details.

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.

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