Photo: AFP
Erekat: No progress
Photo: AFP
Erekat: Reports on progress in talks are 'unfounded'
Palestinian negotiator says gaps between the two sides remain 'deep on all issues' following four-hour mediation meeting on Thursday.

Reports on progress being made in talks between Israel and the Palestinians are "unfounded" and gaps between the two sides remain "deep on all issues," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told al-Ayyam on Friday.


The two negotiating teams have so far held four tripartite meetings in the past 10 days in an attempt to reach an agreement that would lead to the resumption of peace negotiations.


The talks came to a halt after Israel refused to release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners on time, saying the release was conditioned on progress in the negotiations. The Palestinians retaliated by applying to 15 international treaties and conventions, and Israel responded by canceling the fourth prisoner release and imposing sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.


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On Thursday, Al Arabiya reported the agreement between the two sides was near completion, quoting a source as saying the deal will see a number of Palestinian prisoners freed and a freeze on West Bank settlement construction. In return, the Palestinians will suspend their plans to join 15 international bodies.


To sweeten the deal for Israel, the source claimed the US has promised to release jailed American-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.


A similar report was on Channel 2, that said the deal to extend peace talks beyond their original April 29 deadline could be finalized within "a few days."


The sides have since downplayed the report as premature, though the US stated the "gaps were narrowing."


In addition, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Thursday night that he has accepted the Palestinian applications to join the international conventions.


Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, said Tuesday that Palestine will officially become a state party to 13 of the 15 conventions on May 2 - and is ready with more applications to join UN agencies, conventions and treaties depending on Israel's actions.


Al-Ayyam quoted a Palestinian source familiar with the talks as saying negotiations were "at a standstill" and that there were no new proposals from either the Israelis or the Americans.


A Palestinian source told AFP American envoy Martin Indyk presided over Thursday's four-hour meeting in Jerusalem between Israel's chief negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and her Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat.


Also present were Yitzhak Molcho, a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Farah, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


An Israeli official told AFP, also asking not to be named, that "Israel wants to return to talks and overcome the current crisis".


AFP and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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