Last updated: 22 March, 2014

Israel not freeing prisoners would be breach of deal, says Abbas

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas warned Saturday of action if Israel failed to release the fourth and final batch of veteran prisoners as agreed under a US-backed deal.

“We are awaiting the release of the fourth batch of prisoners, as agreed upon with the Israelis through the United States,” he told members of the central committee of his Fatah movement.

“We are saying, if they are not released, this is a violation of the agreement and allows us to act however we see fit within the norms of international agreements.”

Israel agreed to release a total of 104 long-term prisoners when talks kick-started by US Secretary of State John Kerry began in July.

It has freed 78 so far, nearly all of them who had been imprisoned for over 20 years.

But Israeli ministers have warned that should the Palestinians not agree to extend talks beyond their April 29 deadline, they will not release the remaining detainees as scheduled on March 29.

Earlier this month, Abbas said Palestinians will not agree to extend peace talks with Israel unless it releases more prisoners beyond the final batch.

The US is fighting an uphill battle to get the two sides to agree to a framework proposal to extend the so far fruitless negotiations to the year’s end.