Friday, January 29, 2010

Netanyahu to U.S.: I'll Free Fatah Prisoners to Boost Abbas


"29/01/2010 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agrees to the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners as part of efforts backed by the United States and Egypt to jump-start the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu expressed a willingness to release prisoners as a goodwill gesture in talks with the special U.S. Mideast envoy, George Mitchell. Under the plan, Israel would also embark on low-level negotiations with U.S. mediation.

Last Sunday, after meeting with Mitchell, Netanyahu told the cabinet that he heard new ideas from the American administration on the efforts to resume peace talks. "I expressed my hope that these ideas will enable the resumption of the process if the Palestinians express a similar interest in favor of all those who aspire for reconciliation in our region," the Israeli prime minister said.

A senior source in Tel Aviv said Thursday that Netanyahu's comment referred to a new proposal by Mitchell and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Negotiations would take place in the format of proximity talks, similar to the indirect negotiations that Israel held with Syria under former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Mitchell proposes that he travel between Tel Aviv and Ramallah, relaying messages to the two sides on various core issues, including borders, occupied Jerusalem, refugees and security. At a later stage the talks might be taken over by low-level officials on both sides to evaluate if negotiations can be continued at top levels.

The proposal also included Israeli goodwill gestures that would be carried out at the start of the proximity talks the United States would conduct. The main goodwill gesture is expected to be the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners to the occupied West Bank.

The senior source in Tel Aviv said that these would largely be prisoners with only a little time left in their sentences..........."

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