Erekat: Free jailed Hamas officials

Palestinian negotiator calls on Israel to release parliamentary speaker Aziz Dweik, other lawmakers during fourth round of talks in Jordan


The Palestinians urged Top Hamas legislator arrested


But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meeting produced nothing new.



He said the Palestinians used it to demand the release of imprisoned Palestinian officials, including Palestinian parliamentary speaker arrested by Israeli forces on Thursday.


„Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat gave a letter to the head of the Israeli delegation Yitzhak Molcho calling on the Israeli government to immediately release Dweik and more than 23 other Palestinian lawmakers,” the official said.



‘Blow to reconciliation’

The Palestinian delegation accused Israel of arresting Dweik to strike „a blow to internal Palestinian reconciliation” between Fatah movement.



The letter handed over Saturday also called for the release of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghuti and Ahmed Saadat, the secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the official said.



A copy of the letter, which also sought the release of prisoners detained before the 1994 Oslo peace deal, had been sent to the members of the Quartet – the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia.



Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment on the meeting.



„Our Jordanian hosts asked us to promise total discretion on the content of the discussions before we started these meetings. We are, for our part, respecting that commitment,” he said.



The meeting on Saturday was the fourth time Erakat and Molcho have held talks on the resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the Quartet, discussions that do not appear to have yielded any agreement.



The Palestinians say Israel must halt settlement activity before they will engage in direct talks, but Israel says it wants talks without preconditions.



The Quartet said on October 26 it would seek comprehensive proposals on „territory and security” from both sides within three months, and the Palestinians say they submitted their documents before the January 26 deadline.



They have warned that without an Israeli settlement freeze by January 26, they will not continue the exploratory talks.



But Israel says it considers the three-month period to have started with the beginning of the exploratory talks on January 3, putting the deadline at April 3.