Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Saturday that Israel will release 26 prisoners in ten days' time, in accordance to an agreement reached by Israel and the Palestinian Authority ahead of renewed peace talks.
In an interview with the Palestinian news agency Maan, Erekat said the prisoners will be freed on August 13. According to Erekat, Israel refused to release all 104 prisoners, who were incarcerated before the Oslo Accords, in one phase. He also said that core issues such as Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and settlements will be discussed during the talks.
Two weeks ago, before Erekat and Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni met in Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Palestinian prisoners will be released in four groups, one group every six to eight weeks according to progress made in the negotiations. However, a few days later Netanyahu agreed to release the first group earlier than scheduled. The last group – which includes Arab-Israeli prisoners – will be released when negotiations conclude.
Earlier this week, the Israeli cabinet approved the release of the 104 Palestinian prisoners. Netanyahu assured the cabinet that the release of 14 Arab prisoners who are Israeli citizens would require the government’s approval.
On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama called Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and urged them to move ahead with the renewed peace negotiations quickly.
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