Kerry downplays idea of Pollard deal

Secretary of State John Kerry downplayed reports from Tuesday morning that said he was close to settling a deal that would extend peace negotiations through 2015.

"There is no agreement at this time," Kerry said. "There are a lot of possibilities. The Israeli Cabinet has to vote,” referring to the release of a fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners.

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No agreement has also been reached over “any prisoner,” he added.

Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Tuesday he would not return to the Middle East on Wednesday as was previously scheduled. 

Kerry made the announcement at a press conference in Brussels, which came after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced he had canceled their planned meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday.

Abbas made the decision after he moved to apply for Palestinian membership to 15 United Nations agencies. Palestine became a non-member state of the U.N. in 2012. 

The move would potentially violate a deal Kerry worked on with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday in Jerusalem that said Palestinians couldn’t make any unilateral moves at the U.N.

Under the potential agreement, the U.S. would also release Jonathan Pollard to Israel before Passover, on April 14. He was sentenced to life in prison in the 1980s after spying on the U.S. for Israel while working as an analyst for the Navy. 

“President Abbas has given me his word that he will continue to negotiate until the end of April,” said Kerry, who set that deadline last July to help bridge a final status negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kerry disputed reports about the documents Abbas signed, and said none of the agencies the Palestinian Authority petitioned are part of the U.N.

The cancelation of Kerry’s trip to the Middle East came just minutes after State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Kerry would still be returning to the region on Wednesday despite reports from Palestinian officials.   

At the press conference, Kerry said, under the circumstances, it’s “completely premature” to write off the Israeli-Palestinian peace process at this time. 

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