PARIS — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Israel Monday in an effort to reach agreement on a deal to extend Middle East peace talks that are threatened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reluctance to release more prisoners. Kerry says "some judgments have to be made" about going forward on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is the second time in less than a week that Kerry has changed his schedule to try to prevent peace talks from collapsing over the prisoner controversy.
Israeli leaders want the peace process extended beyond the end of next month before they release more prisoners, arguing that Palestinians will have no incentive to continue with talks once the detainees are freed. Palestinians say they will quit now if Israel refuses to release those prisoners, among them Israeli Arabs detained before the 1993 Oslo peace accord.
Israel promised to free this group as part of the deal that launched nine months of peace talks in exchange for Palestinians agreeing not to take diplomatic action against Israel at international organizations such as the United Nations.
As he has throughout these talks, Kerry declined to discuss publicly specifics of U.S. efforts to overcome the prisoner standoff.
"I think it would be inappropriate to get into any kind of judgements about what may or may not occur or happen because it's really a question between the Palestinians and the Israelis and what Prime Minister Netanyahu is prepared to do," Kerry said.
The secretary met in Jordan with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last Wednesday before returning to Italy to join President Barack Obama's meeting with Pope Francis. Talks Monday with come between a late Sunday meeting in Paris with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Tuesday's start of a NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.
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