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Gap in peace talks wide, Palestinian official says

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(JTA) — A meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators ended without an agreement to resume peace talks, a Palestinian official said.

The meeting held Thursday in Jerusalem sought a framework that would allow talks to continue for another nine months. It lasted five hours, and the atmosphere was chilly, the unnamed official told the French news agency AFP Friday.

U.S. peace envoy Martin Indyk is scheduled to meet with the Palestinian and Israeli teams separately on Friday, AFP reported.

The talks Thursday were “very difficult”, the Palestinian source said. “The gap … is still wide.” According to Army Radio, attending the talks Thursday were Israel’s justice minister, Tzipi Livni, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Indyk.

The negotiators were discussing ways to reach an agreement on a framework for peace talks beyond the April 29 deadline originally set by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Talks were put on hold earlier this month after Israel failed to meet a March 29 deadline to free the final batch of 26 of 104 prisoners it agreed to release at the outset of the talks.

In response, the Palestinian Authority applied for membership in several international conventions, a process it had agreed to suspend as long as talks were ongoing.

One critical area of disagreement has been over whether Israeli Arab citizens should be included in the prisoner release, as the Palestinian Authority has demanded.

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