JERUSALEM: US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in London on Wednesday, a Palestinian official said, weeks after Middle East peace talks collapsed.
“The meeting will discuss a possible resumption of negotiations with Israel,” the official told AFP, requesting anonymity. Kerry’s peace efforts derailed even ahead of their April 29 deadline, with Palestinian and Israeli leaders exchanging recriminations and reneging on commitments made during nine months of fruitless meetings. “The meeting could be the last attempt by Kerry to revive negotiations,” the Palestinian official said.
Should the peace talks resume, Kerry believes both sides must work on the future contours of a Palestinian state and security arrangements for Israel alongside other core issues such as refugees and Jerusalem. Israeli security took precedence throughout much of the last talks, overshadowing the issues of future borders and refugees. During the talks, the Jewish state also announced thousands of new settler homes in the West Bank, on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
In late March, Israel backtracked on a pledge made at the start of talks in July 2013 to release a final batch of veteran Palestinian prisoners, prompting Abbas to seek membership of several international treaties, breaking his own commitments. The Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is dominated by Abbas’s Fatah party, then signed a surprise reconciliation agreement with Islamist rivals Hamas on April 23, after which an incensed Israel pulled out of the talks.
Meanwhile, Israel is placing increasing numbers of arrested Palestinian children in solitary confinement, an international children’s rights group said in a report issued Monday.
The report came just months after Israel’s army, under international pressure to introduce reforms, agreed to test alternative treatment for children it detains in the West Bank. In more than one in five cases recorded by Defence for Children International in 2013, children detained for questioning by the army reported “undergoing solitary confinement,” DCI said in a statement. This was a two-percent rise on 2012 figures, it said. “Use of isolation against Palestinian children as an interrogation tool is a growing trend,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish of DCI in the Palestinian territories.
“This is a violation of children’s rights and the international community must demand justice and accountability,” he said. “Globally, children and juvenile offenders are often held in isolation either as a disciplinary measure or to separate them from adult populations,” DCI said. “The use of solitary confinement by Israeli authorities does not appear to be related to any disciplinary, protective, or medical rationale.” DCI’s research included 98 sworn affidavits from Palestinian children aged 12 to 17.
In October, the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) said Israel had agreed to test alternative treatment for Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank. These included issuing summons instead of arresting children at their homes at night. But UNICEF said that “ongoing” violations by the army were rife and included physical violence and verbal abuse. Over the past decade, Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 children between 12 and 17, mostly boys, UNICEF found, noting the rate was equivalent to “an average of two children each day.”
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