The Palestinian leadership has accused Israel of trying to blackmail the PA with new conditions for continuing the diplomatic process after Jerusalem delayed a fourth release of 26 Palestinian prisoners slated for Saturday night, a Fatah official said Friday.
PA Deputy Minister for Prisoner Affairs Ziad Abu Ein said the Palestinians considered the delay a major violation of the agreement on which the current round of peace talks are based.
As a gesture for resuming talks in July, Israel agreed to release in four stages 104 Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist acts before the the 1993 Oslo accords.
"Israel agrees to extend negotiations, with possible additions to the [current] framework," Abu Ein said on his Facebook account.
He added that a meeting between US State Department Middle East peace envoy Martin Indyk and PA President Mahmoud Abbas regarding the delay had ended without result early Friday morning.
Israel's five-minister committee chaired by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that is empowered to choose which terrorists will be released would have needed to meet on Wednesday to make a Saturday-night release possible.
The names must be made public 48 hours – not including Shabbat – prior to the prisoners going free in order to allow appeals to the High Court of Justice against the move.
No date for convening the committee has been publicized.
The PA leadership was prepared to appeal to international bodies and UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court, if Israel does not release the prisoners by the end of March, Fatah Central Committee member Mahmoud al-Aloul said Thursday.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Abbas in Jordan to press the Palestinian leader to commit to prolonging negotiations until the end of 2014.
PA officials said Abbas and Kerry were scheduled to hold another meeting next week. They said no progress had been achieved during their latest meeting.
Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.