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Kerry phones Abbas, Netanyahu to save peace talks

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held late night phone conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to revive peace talks.

“Neither side, throughout this process recently, has indicated they want to walk away from the talks,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters Thursday. “They both indicated they want to find a path forward.”

The late-night conversations followed a crisis in negotiations, which suffered a setback after Israel failed to meet a March 29 deadline to release 26 Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian Authority applied to join 15 international conventions in defiance of its commitment not to seek such recognition until an agreement is in place.

Kerry, speaking in Algiers, where he was meeting Thursday with his Algerian counterpart, Ramtane Lamamra, said it would be a “tragedy” were the talks to collapse over what he said were procedural issues.

“A fight over process, how to get into a negotiation, should not stop you from getting into that negotiation,” Kerry said. “And so I hope that they will consider that very, very carefully.”

Palestinian negotiators are currently demanding that Netanyahu give a written commitment to recognize east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and lift the naval blockade from Gaza as a condition of going ahead with peace talks, Army Radio on Friday reported. They are also demanding the release 1,200 prisoners, including Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, the report said.

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