Abbas with released prisoners in Ramallah 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad )
If Israel does not release more Palestinian terrorists, the PA will not be obligated to avoid unilateral steps, former Palestinian Authority Minister of Detainees and Prisoner Affairs Ashraf al-Ajrami said Monday.
Speaking at the launch of an Israeli-Palestinian event in Jerusalem supporting the Arab Peace Initiative, Ajrami told The Jerusalem Post "if there is an Israeli decision to postpone the release of 104 prisoners, it will be a step against the process."
"I think Palestinian leadership will decide to stop negotiations if anything related to postponing or rejecting the release happens," he added.
Ajrami emphasized that Israel must release Palestinian terrorists from prison in order to negotiate.
"There are two parts to the American agreement. Israel agreed to release prisoners, Palestinians agreed not to appeal to UN organizations," Ajrami stated, implying that the PA will not feel obligated to their part if Israel does not fulfill its side of the deal.
Israel has already released 78 of the 104 prisoners agreed upon as a goodwill gesture made by Jerusalem at the start of peace talks in July. However, pronouncements by PA officials suggesting that the peace talks were at a standstill and doomed to fail have increased calls form within Israel to cancel the release of the fourth and final batch of prisoners, scheduled for March 29.
Airami's comments came as the Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency reported Monday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told US President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House last week that he is prepared to continue peace talks on condition that Israel freeze settlement construction and release more Palestinian prisoners.
Abbas made similar pronouncements earlier this month in a Ramallah meeting with Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On
“The only chance that we will agree to extend the talks will be if [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu declares a settlement construction freeze and the releasing of more prisoners.”
The nine-month period that US Secretary of State John Kerry designated for negotiations is set to end on April 29.