Abbas says no peace deal unless all prisoners freed

Dec. 31, 2013 at 7:18 AM
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- There will be no permanent peace deal with Israel as long as Israel holds Palestinians prisoner, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said early Tuesday.

"I promise you, there will be no permanent agreement [with Israel] until all prisoners are set free," Abbas told a reception held in Ramallah for the third batch of prisoners released by Israel.

In the nine-month framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that resumed in July, Israel agreed to release a total of 104 prisoners held for offenses committed prior to the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords. So far, 78 have been released.

Over night, Israel released 26 prisoners: 18 to the West Bank, five to East Jerusalem and three to the Gaza Strip.

The third prisoner release was met with dismay in Israel and jubilation by the Palestinian Authority. Israeli families of terror victims demonstrated late Monday outside the East Jerusalem home of one of the prisoners. Earlier, an Israeli court rejected a petition filed by the families of Israeli terror victims to prevent the prisoners from being freed.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a Likud faction meeting Monday he was "not elected to make easy decisions," the Times of Israel reported.

In Ramallah, Abbas vowed to fight a recent Israeli ministerial vote to annex the Jordan Valley, Channel 2 reported.

"The Jordan Valley is Palestinian land -- and it will remain that way. We will not allow Israel to implement its decision," Abbas said.

An Israeli ministerial committee Sunday voted to annex the Jordan Valley to prevent an Israeli withdrawal from the area in any future peace agreement.

The vote would have to be approved by the Knesset and Netanyahu who would be expected to kill the proposal. However, it did not prevent Israelis and Palestinians from protesting the vote.

The control of the Jordan Valley has been a sticking point in peace negotiations. Netanyahu has said Israel must maintain a military presence for security reasons. Palestinians have rejected a U.S. proposal calling for continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley for as long as 10 years.

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