Abbas to push PA prisoner issue during Obama visit

Official says the PA president will place the issue of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons at the top of his agenda.

Mahmoud Abbas UN 370 (photo credit: Scott Eells/Bloomberg)
Mahmoud Abbas UN 370
(photo credit: Scott Eells/Bloomberg)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to place the issue of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel at the top of his agenda during the planned meeting with US President Barack Obama, a PA official in Ramallah said Monday.
The official’s announcement came as families of Palestinian prisoners stepped up their protests in the West Bank, staging demonstrations and rallies calling on Abbas not to resume the peace talks unless Israel released their sons.
The official said that Abbas would ask Obama to put pressure on Israel to release scores of prisoners, especially those who were imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords, in order to pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks.
“The issue of the prisoners will be the No. 1 issue during the talks with President Obama,” the official said.
“President Abbas will also demand the release of prisoners who have been on hunger strike for the past few months.”
The issue of settlements, according to the PA official, will occupy second place on Abbas’s agenda.
Abbas and the PA leadership have recently come under increased pressure to act on the issue of Palestinian prisoners.
On Monday, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in several West Bank cities, including Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus and Bethlehem in solidarity with the prisoners.
The demonstrators called on Abbas to refrain from returning to the negotiating table unless Israel released Palestinian prisoners. Some of the protests also criticized the PA leadership for failing to do enough to secure the release of prisoners.