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Israel to Release Some Palestinian Prisoners in Exchange for Talks

Israel has agreed to release a "limited" number of Palestinian prisoners, a day after the two governments agreed to head back to negotiations in hopes of settling long-standing differences.

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz made the announcement Saturday, without giving specific details about the number of prisoners or their identities.

Late Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the plans for resumed negotiations. He spoke in Amman, Jordan, after returning from a trip to Ramallah and a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kerry said some details are still being worked out but that if all goes well, Palestinians and Israeli officials will travel to Washington for initial talks within the next week or two.



He praised both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas for making some difficult choices.

This is the sixth trip Kerry has made to the Middle East since becoming secretary of state earlier this year. He was originally scheduled to have flown back to the U.S. earlier Friday. He extended his stay after sensing an agreement to restart talks was within reach.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2010.

White House officials said President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to ask him to work with Kerry to "resume negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible."

Earlier this week, in Jordan, Kerry met with representatives of Arab states that support a comprehensive peace plan. He said many of the Arab League ministers told him "the core issue of instability in this region and in many other parts of the world is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

Kerry has been urging both Israel and the Palestinians to be cautious and to avoid any actions or statements that might undermine their progress.

Kerry has said the proposed plan aims to show both sides the benefits of peace, and, in particular, the impact some proposals could have on the Palestinian economy. He said programs being considered as part of the plan could reduce unemployment in the Palestinian territory from 21 percent to 8 percent over the next three years while also doubling the Gross Domestic Product.

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