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Meeting of Israeli, Palestinian peace negotiators postponed

Source: Reuters - Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:53 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Session rescheduled for Thursday - Palestinian official

* U.S. trying to extend peace talks beyond April 29 deadline

JERUSALEM, April 16 (Reuters) - A meeting between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed after the killing of an Israeli in a shooting attack in the occupied West Bank.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the session had been rescheduled for Thursday at the request of the United States. Washington is struggling to extend the talks, on the verge of collapse, beyond an April 29 deadline for a peace deal.

An Israeli official confirmed the meeting had been delayed but declined to say who asked for the postponement or when teams would reconvene to try to breathe new life into the U.S.-driven peace process.

The killing on Monday of an off-duty police officer and the wounding of his wife in a shooting attack on their car in the West Bank as they drove to a Passover holiday dinner struck an emotional chord in Israel.

It drew calls from members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet to postpone the peace talks, at least until after 47-year-old Baruch Mizrahi's funeral on Wednesday.

There was no claim of responsibility for the shooting. But in a statement on Tuesday, Netanyahu said the Palestinian Authority was to blame for anti-Israeli incitement that he alleged led to the attack, and he complained that President Mahmoud Abbas had not issued a condemnation.

At a meeting in his West Bank office with a group of Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday, Abbas "condemned violence and the killing of Palestinians and Israelis", said Mohammed Al-Madani, a member of the Central Committee of Abbas's Fatah party.

The event was scheduled before Monday's attack. Abbas has held several meetings in the past with Israeli legislators, mainly members of the opposition in parliament.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Abbas, told a news conference with the head of the Israeli delegation: "We are against violence and against a return to violence."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry revived the peace talks in July after a nearly three-year hiatus with the aim of ending a decades-old conflict and establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The negotiations plunged into deep crisis this month when Israel refused to carry out the last of four waves of prisoner releases unless it received assurances the Palestinian leadership would continue the talks beyond the April deadline.

After Israel failed to free the prisoners, Abbas responded by signing 15 international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations. Israel condemned the move as a unilateral step toward statehood.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Janet Lawrence)

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