US says Israeli and Palestinian talks to salvage process ‘serious and constructive’

Trilateral meetings between Israel, the Palestinians and the US to salvage Israeli-Palestinians peace talks have been ‘serious and constructive’ according to US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki speaking on Monday. She was referring to talks held Sunday evening, and further talks were held yesterday. However there is no sign yet of a deal to resolve the current impasse.

The parties are looking for a package of measures which would be the basis for extending talks beyond the current deadline at the end of April. A package deal collapsed last week, which would have seen Israel release 400 additional prisoners and restrain settlement construction, in return for the Palestinians staying at the negotiating table for a further nine months, and the US releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.

The deal foundered when the Palestinians applied to 15 international conventions, breaching a commitment not to take unilateral action. They said they were responding to Israel’s failure to release on time, four days earlier, 26 prisoners serving long sentences for terror offences, agreed to be released under a July 2013 deal to restart negotiations.

Israeli officials say the Palestinian move was completely disproportionate, given that the Israeli cabinet was preparing to approve the release of the 26 prisoners as part of the package to extend talks. Israel has now suspended the release indefinitely and there is pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu to respond to the Palestinian unilateral measure.

There are various reports this morning of proposals to resolve the current impasse. According to a Palestinian source quoted by the Al Quds website, the Palestinians are willing to return to talks for two months only, in order to find an agreement on the issue of borders, but they have refused to withdraw the 15 applications to international bodies. Israel Radio quotes the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, which reports that the Palestinians rejected an Israeli proposal for a direct meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, and an Israeli request to withdraw half of the 15 applications.

Meanwhile in Washington, Secretary of Kerry is due to report back to President Obama today and to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry’s statements in recent days have hinted to the parties that he feels he is reaching the limits of what he can do advance the process.

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