Kerry-Abbas meeting canceled; effort to extend talks faces hurdles

The American-led peace process appears to be on the verge of collapse.

The American-led peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians may not be extended after all. Following Israel’s refusal to, or delay in releasing the remaining 26 Palestinian prisoners due to be freed during the negotiation period, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced in a speech in Ramallah Tuesday that he would renew the Palestinian effort to join 15 international organizations and treaties.

Secretary of State Kerry, who was due to return to the region on Wednesday in order to finalize a deal to extend talks through the end of the year, will not meet Abbas tomorrow.

The talks, however, did not formally end.

Over the past 24 hours, the Israeli media was full of reports outlining an American proposal under which Abbas would refrain from going to the UN through 2015, during which time efforts to reach a framework for a final status agreement would continue.

In return, Israel would release the remaining prisoners and another 400 “light offenders,” whose prison terms were about to end. Israel was also supposed to decrease the rate of settlement construction in certain areas (which reached record numbers last year).

The United States, it was reported, was set to release long-imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, an American citizen who is serving a life sentence in U.S federal prison.

Click here for more news and analysis on the Kerry-led process. 

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a final status agreement were renewed last summer, originally intended to end after nine months (a period that ends at the end of this month). However, no progress was made in the first months.

By the end of 2013, the American team — working under Secretary Kerry — took charge of the process. But even efforts to reach an accepted framework failed, and in the past couple of weeks Kerry and special envoy Martin Indyk tried to extend the talks.

Israel, for its part, announced that it will not free the fourth group of prisoners – an act to which it committed when the talks began.

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