JERUSALEM: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators ended another US-mediated session yesterday with no sign of a breakthrough in efforts to save peace talks from collapse, but an Israeli official said they had agreed to meet again.
In a statement about the latest discussions, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “Gaps remain, but both sides are committed to narrow the gaps.”
The negotiations, which began in July, plunged into crisis last week after Israel, demanding a Palestinian commitment to continue talking beyond an April 29 deadline for a peace deal, failed to carry out a promised release of about two dozen Palestinian prisoners.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded by signing 15 global treaties, including the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations, on behalf of the State of Palestine, a defiant move that surprised Washington and angered Israel.w
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, speaking on Israel Radio yesterday, said Abbas would have to reverse that step in order for the prisoner release to be re-addressed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened unspecified retaliation in response to what Israel views as a unilateral statehood move by Abbas. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al Malki said Abbas would appeal at an Arab League meeting in Cairo today for political and economic support in the event of Israeli punitive measures.
Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the Palestinians were prepared to join more international groups if Israel retaliated. As a UN non-member state, Palestinians can join 63 international agencies and accords. “If they want to escalate further and try to illegally punish us for doing something legal, we are ready and willing to send the second barrage, the third barrage and more of what legally we could do,” Mansour told the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.