Palestinians say Kerry gave guarantees

July 21, 2013 at 8:49 AM
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JERUSALEM, July 21 (UPI) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received written guarantees from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry concerning the renewal of peace talks, Palestinians say.

Israel Radio said Palestinian sources report Abbas received a letter from Kerry laying out the terms for the renewal of talks before he left for Washington.

Kerry announced the resumption of talks in Amman, Jordan, Friday, but failed to outline details.

The Palestinian sources said the terms include resuming talks based on the 1967 borders; an agreement that Israel will refrain from publishing tenders for building in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem during the duration of talks; the release of Palestinian prisoners; and an agreement that the Palestinians will refrain from taking unilateral steps or diplomatic action against Israel.

Unnamed Israeli officials denied the Palestinian claims, Israel Radio said.

"The talks are taking place without preconditions," an unnamed Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post. "There is no Israeli commitment of making a statement that the basis for the talks will be the 1967 lines. Nor is there a freeze on building in Judea and Samaria. And there will not be a release of prisoners before the beginning of talks."

At the outset of the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the Palestinians will need to make concessions to ensure Israel's security. Netanyahu said the nation will vote on any agreement, the Post said. He reiterated that his main concern is to uphold Israel's security demands as well as its vital interests.

Differences between the sides also surfaced concerning the number of Palestinian prisoners Israel has reportedly agreed to release during the upcoming talks. While Israeli officials insist about 80 prisoners will be released in stages during the talks, and will not include Israeli Arabs, Palestinians have asked to release 103 prisoners incarcerated in Israel before the 1993 Oslo Accords, The Jerusalem Post said. said the Palestinians are demanding the release of 300 prisoners.

Two central aims will guide Israel in the talks, Netanyahu said. Preventing the creation of a bi-national state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and preventing the establishment of an Iranian-backed terror state on Israel's borders.

Israeli President Shimon Peres congratulated Abbas on his decision to return to the negotiating table, Peres' office said. "There is no alternative other than peace, not for us, not for you. You made a courageous and historic decision to return to the negotiating table," the president's office said Peres told Abbas in a telephone conversation Saturday.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Netanyahu's personal envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, will represent Israel in the upcoming talks in Washington, and Saeb Erekat will represent the Palestinians.

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