Palestinians to mull applying to int'l bodies

RAMALLAH (AA) – The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is set to hold a high-profile meeting under President Mahmoud Abbas later on Monday to discuss joining international institutions and conventions in response to Israel's failure to abide by an earlier promise to release a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners, a Palestinian official said. Accede

"The Palestinian leadership will discuss… the practical steps to apply for joining international conventions and United Nations agencies to seek decisions obliging Israel to halt the settlement activities, killings, suppression and terrorism against the Palestinian people," Saleh Raafat, a member of the PLO's executive committee, told Anadolu Agency.

He added that the meeting comes after Israel's reluctance to release a fourth batch of long-serving prisoners who had been supposed to be freed on Saturday.

Israel had agreed to free 104 Palestinian prisoners detained since before the 1993 Oslo agreement in return for a Palestinian moratorium on seeking membership in international organizations, especially the International Criminal Court (ICC), and seeking statehood at the United Nations.

In November of 2012, Palestine was granted non-member observer state status at the United Nations.

Three groups of Palestinian prisoners have already been released and a fourth group of 26 prisoners was supposed to be freed on Saturday, including Arab Israelis, but Israel backtracked on its promise.

"The Israeli retreat absolves us from the agreement to not join international organizations," the Palestinian official said.

"We will work on a plan to move internationally while taking other steps on the ground to face the Israeli measures, including the Judaization of Al-Quds [occupied East Jerusalem], settlement activities, murder and oppression, and to exercise pressure to free the prisoners," Raafat added.

Earlier on Monday, Israeli media reported that Israel had made an offer to the Palestinian president to resume peace talks.

"The committee will reiterate its rejection of any Israeli or U.S. proposals to oblige the Palestinian side to extend peace negotiations in exchange for releasing additional Palestinian prisoners," Raafat said.

Israel hopes that by extending the negotiations it can continue its settlement and Judaization policy, he added.

The executive committee is the PLO's highest executive body.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to arrive in the Middle East on Monday for another round of Israeli-Palestinian talks only weeks before an April 29 deadline for negotiations

In the coming hours, Kerry is expected to hold talks with officials in both Israel and the Palestinian territories.

U.S.-brokered talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed in Washington last summer after a nearly three-year pause.

During a January visit to the region, Kerry presented both sides with a proposed framework for an eventual deal that addresses so-called "final-status" issues – namely, borders, security, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem).

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