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Abbas says to join UN agencies

April 1, 2014 7:45 P.M. (Updated: April 3, 2014 10:58 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday said the Palestinians would seek membership in international organizations after Israel failed to release a batch of Palestinian prisoners on schedule.

In a televised speech, Abbas said he had started the process to sign agreements with 15 United Nations agencies and organizations and would pursue joining more.

"The Palestinian leadership has unanimously approved a decision to seek membership of 15 UN agencies and international treaties, beginning with the Fourth Geneva Convention," Abbas said after signing the demand.

“I proposed this to the leadership, and we said if they were not released we will go and join 63 international organizations. I suggested this to the leadership and they unanimously agreed.”

He added: “We are not against the US, and we do not want to use this right to face anyone ... We will continue with the negotiations and take advantage of every remaining moment until the deadline.”

US peace efforts were already teetering on the brink of collapse after Israel refused to free the fourth and final group of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners which would have completed an agreement that brought the sides back to the negotiating table in July 2013.

Furious Palestinian officials had warned that unless Israel changed its stance on the prisoner releases, it could signal the end of the negotiations, which are in any case due to draw to a close on April 29.

US efforts are currently focused on getting the parties to agree an extension to the end of the year.

Secretary of State John Kerry met Tuesday for two hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before entering talks with Palestinian negotiators at his Jerusalem hotel.

He later held a second two-hour meeting with Netanyahu, with sources close to the talks saying they discussed a deal to free Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as a way of breaking the log-jam in the negotiations.

Shortly after his breakfast meeting with Netanyahu, Kerry was back on a plane heading to Europe for a NATO meeting in Brussels.

But a senior Palestinian source told AFP he would return within 24 hours for talks with President Mahmoud Abbas.

"Kerry will fly to Europe today for previous engagements and will come back to meet the president tomorrow at noon (0900 GMT)," the Palestinian source told AFP.

Kerry had been due to meet Abbas late on Monday but the meeting was cancelled.

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