Israel hands Palestinians proposal to extend peace talks
Jerusalem: Israel handed the Palestinians a proposal they hope will lead to an extension of their peace talks beyond an April 29 deadline, as efforts to salvage the negotiations came to a head.
The fate of the US-brokered peace process could be decided within days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday, warning that "either the matter will be resolved or it will blow up."
Netanyahu`s remarks to ministers from his rightwing Likud party came as US officials were working around the clock to prevent a collapse of the negotiations over a dispute about Palestinian prisoners.
"In any case, there won`t be any deal without Israel knowing clearly what it will get in exchange," Netanyahu said.
According to a Palestinian official, Israel presented Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas with a draft agreement to relaunch talks. Abbas was to examine the proposal during the night, he said.
An Israeli official would not provide details on the proposal but told AFP: "Now the Palestinians need to reply if they are willing to continue negotiations."
With the talks teetering on the brink of collapse, Washington, which pushed the sides to relaunch talks in July, has been fighting an uphill battle to coax them into accepting a framework proposal which would extend the negotiations beyond April 29.
But the issue has become tied up with the fate of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners who Israel was to have freed this weekend under the terms agreed to relaunch talks.
Israel on Friday informed the Palestinians they would not free the prisoners, with the US State Department confirming it was working "intensively" to resolve the dispute.
US officials said Secretary of State John Kerry, in Paris yesterday, spoke with Netanyahu.
After those talks, Kerry told reporters in the French capital that it was not yet appropriate for the US to make any public judgement of the situation "at this important moment".
"It`s really a question between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and what Prime Minister Netanyahu is prepared to do," he added.
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