(JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave assurances that Israel would release 350 Palestinian prisoners in the coming months, according to a Palestinian government minister.
Labor Minister Ahmed Majdalani told The Associated Press over the weekend that Kerry assured Palestinian officials that the prisoners would be freed gradually. He also said Kerry proposed holding talks for six to nine months focusing on the key issues of borders and security arrangements.
Kerry was in the Middle East on his sixth working trip since March in an attempt to jump-start talks between Israel and the Palestinians. On Friday, he flew from Amman, Jordan, to Ramallah for an unscheduled meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before returning to Washington, Israel’s Army Radio reported.
The prisoners in the release would include some 100 men that Israel convicted of crimes committed before interim peace accords were signed in 1993, AP reported. Israel has balked at freeing these prisoners in the past because many were convicted in deadly attacks.
Majdalani also said that Kerry would endorse Israel’s 1967 lines as the starting point of negotiations. Last week, a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied reports that Israel has accepted a return to the 1967 borders as a precondition for talks, saying Israel would like to work out the issue in direct talks.