JERUSALEM: Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians has told them that a planned release of 26 Palestinian prisoners cannot go ahead, a source close to the talks told AFP on Thursday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told a meeting with her counterparts on Wednesday that the release could not take place, as the Palestinians had unilaterally resumed moves to seek international recognition for their promised state.
Talks hit a new impasse when Israel failed to free 26 prisoners as expected at the weekend.
In response, the Palestinians formally requested accession to several international treaties in a bid to unilaterally further their statehood claim.
The source close to the talks said on Thursday that Livni told the Palestinians that her government had been seeking to expedite the release when the Palestinians submitted their accession request to United Nations bodies and that they had therefore breached their commitments under the terms of peace talks restarted under US auspices last July.
It said that Livni told the Palestinians that no unilateral step would move talks forward and called on the Palestinians to cancel the move and return to the negotiating table.
US officials said that Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been pursuing more than a year of intensive shuttle diplomacy, spoke by phone to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday afternoon, but gave no details.