Most Palestinians back extending talks if more prisoners freed

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two-thirds of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza would support extending the current peace talks if Israel released extra Palestinian prisoners, according to a new poll.

Sixty-five percent of the 1,200 Palestinian adults interviewed last week by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research backed the extension of the American-backed talks with the condition, the French news agency AFP reported.

The negotiations are set to end on April 29. Israel is scheduled to release a fourth group of 28 Palestinian prisoners on Saturday, but its security Cabinet has said it will not follow through unless the Palestinians agree to extend negotiations.

Also in the poll, 51 percent of Palestinians said they would support continuing the talks if Israel froze West Bank settlement construction.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Maan news agency cited an unnamed Palestinian official as saying that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to extend the talks if Israel agrees to freeze settlement construction and release additional prisoners above the 104 agreed to in order to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table nearly nine months ago

Abbas indicated his agreement in exchange for the conditions during his recent meeting with President Obama in Washington, the unnamed official told Maan.

The official also told Maan that if the last group of prisoners, who have remained in Israeli jails since before the Oslo Accords, are not released on Saturday, the Palestinian Authority will turn to international organizations for recognition.

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