Palestinian minister: Kerry said Israel would release 350 prisoners

(JTA) — A Palestinian minister said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave assurances that Israel would release 350 Palestinian prisoners in the coming months.

Palestinian Labor Minister Ahmed Majdalani told the Associated Press over the weekend that Kerry assured the Palestinians that Israel would free some 350 prisoners gradually in the coming months. Kerry also proposed holding talks for six to nine months focusing on the key issues of borders and security arrangements, according to the report.

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Kerry was in the Middle East on his 6th 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.

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, and said that Israel would like to work out the issue in direct talks.

The prisoners 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.

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