The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

World News

April 2, 2014

Palestinians: We don't want Kerry mission to fail

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians are not walking away from U.S.-led efforts to reach a peace deal with Israel, a top Palestinian official said Wednesday, a day after their renewed bid for international recognition of a "state of Palestine" threw Washington's already troubled Mideast mission into further disarray.

Israeli, Palestinian and U.S. negotiators are set to meet Wednesday night, officials familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

As part of the terms for returning to negotiations in late July, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had promised to suspend Palestinian membership applications to United Nations agencies and international conventions.

Israel, in turn, pledged to release 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners during the talks, which were to last until late April.

But in a surprise move Tuesday, Abbas signed letters of accession to 15 international conventions, saying this was a response to Israel's failure to release the last of four groups of prisoners by the end of March.

Israel has not responded. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry canceled plans to return Wednesday to the Middle East, but also said it's "completely premature" to write off the Israeli-Palestinian talks.

There were some indications from Palestinian officials that Abbas' unexpected step largely was intended as a pressure tactic. Keeping on good terms with the U.S. and negotiating the terms of a Palestinian state with Israel remain pillars of Abbas' political strategy.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Wednesday that the Palestinians are not turning away from negotiations.

"We hope that Kerry renews his efforts in the coming days," Abed Rabbo told a news conference. "We don't want his mission to fail."

The PLO official also suggested that joining the 15 international conventions would not lead to dramatic changes on the ground.

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