The United States on Friday denied that the peace effort it has led between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) had failed, despite earlier reports that Israel had announced it would not go through with the fourth and final batch of terrorist releases, which was scheduled for Saturday night.
"Any reports that suggest the talks are off are inaccurate," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told journalists covering a visit to Saudi Arabia by Secretary of State Kerry and President Barack Obama, according to AFP.
"Ambassador [Martin] Indyk and the negotiating team remain closely engaged with both parties on the ground and will continue to work over the coming days to help them bridge the gaps and determine the path forward," she added.
Earlier, PA official Jibril Rajoub told AFP that Israel had informed the PA through Indyk that it will not release the fourth batch of terrorists, adding that the move was a "slap in the face of the U.S. administration and its efforts."
Another senior official told the news agency that Israel's refusal to free the final batch of terrorists is another obstacle to U.S. efforts to broker peace.
The release, intended as a "gesture" to promote the stalled peace talks, has been widely protested in Israel. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon threatened to resign if the move went through. So far Israel has released 78 of the promised 104 terrorists; many of the terrorists were convicted of murdering Israeli citizens.
Much of the objection to the fourth release came after the PA chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, admitted earlier this month that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was staying in talks solely for the sake of the terrorist releases.
Kerry met Abbas in Amman on Wednesday, in a bid to save the peace talks.
Kerry’s meeting with Abbas, which was not planned until Tuesday night, was suddenly announced hours after the PA Chairman launched a tirade against Israel at the Arab League summit, accusing the Jewish state of being responsible for the peace talks not progressing.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)