04/02/2014, 00.00
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As Kerry renounces visit to Ramallah, talks between Israel and Palestine hand in the balance

The decision by the Secretary of State comes after Abbas decides to apply for 15 UN agencies, a step that violates the agreement on talks. However, the Palestinians accuse Israel of breaking the deal first by not releasing Palestinian prisoners.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) - US-led peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians are at a standstill. Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that he would not go to Ramallah to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as planned after the latter signed applications by the "State of Palestine" to join 15 UN agencies.

"The Palestinian leadership has unanimously approved a decision to seek membership of 15 UN agencies and international treaties, beginning with the Fourth Geneva Convention," Abbas said on television. "The demands (for membership) will be sent immediately" to the relevant agencies, he explained.

Abbas's announcement violates the agreement made last July, which was to last for nine months, until the end of April. During this period, Abbas promised to suspend Palestine's UN bid, whilst the Jewish state was to release 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners in four stages.

The Palestinians say the fourth group of prisoners, which was due to be released by the end of March, was not.

Making matters worse from a Palestinian perspective, Israel reissued tenders for 708 homes in the Jewish settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem, the Israeli pressure group Peace Now reported.

Speaking last night about his decision not to go to Ramallah, Kerry urged "both parties to show restraint". For weeks, he has tried to convince both sides to continue direct negotiations even after 29 April deadline.

For him, "It is completely premature tonight to draw . . . any final judgement about today's events and where things are. This is a moment to be really clear-eyed and sober about this process."

According to US officials, after Abbas's announcement, Kerry spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and planned to call the Palestinian leader.

The US-sponsored talks are now in great danger. They were set to end by 29 April with an overall agreement, as President Obama hoped for, but so far, nothing has been achieved and the process now appears to be in jeopardy.

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