(Reuters) – Israel told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday it might not carry out a final stage of a Palestinian prisoner release unless he commits to prolonging peace talks beyond a U.S.-set April deadline for a deal.
Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, issued the warning just a day after Abbas, at a White House meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama aimed at keeping the talks alive, voiced hope the prisoners would go free by March 29.
“There was never any automatic commitment to release prisoners unrelated to making progress in negotiations,” Livni said in a speech in southern Israel that could complicate Washington’s efforts to salvage peacemaking.
She was referring to Israel’s agreement, as part of U.S. efforts to revive Palestinian statehood talks frozen for three years, to free 104 inmates jailed for attacks, many of them deadly, against Israelis before a 1993 interim peace deal.
Israel has freed more than 70 of those prisoners since the negotiations resumed in July. But the talks have made little progress and Washington is trying to set guidelines to keep them going beyond the original April 29 target date for an accord…