US ‘offers to free Israel spy’

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AFP

Israelis protest in front of the US embassy in the coastal city of Tel Aviv in 2011 to call for the release of Jonathan Pollard. Picture: DAVID BUIMOVITCH

 

Jerusalem - Washington has offered to free jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as part of an arrangement that would secure an extension of the deadlocked peace talks, army radio said on Wednesday.

Citing Israeli officials, the radio said the offer was put on the table as part of a deal which would ensure Israel releases a fourth tranche of veteran Palestinian prisoners, scheduled for March 29.

Israel has cast doubt on the planned releases, citing Palestinian intransigence in the crisis-hit peace talks which are due to end on April 29.

Washington is trying to extend the deadline but the Palestinians say that if the prisoners are not freed, there will be no extension.

Pollard, a former US Navy analyst, was arrested in 1985 for giving Israel thousands of secret documents about US espionage in the Arab world.

He was jailed for life, and Washington has rejected repeated Israeli efforts to secure his release. He won Israeli citizenship in 1995.

There was no comment from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not comment directly on the report but said there were “no plans” to release Pollard at this stage.

“Jonathan Pollard was convicted of espionage against the United States, a very serious crime, was sentenced to life in prison, and is serving his sentence,” she said in a statement.

“There are currently no plans to release Jonathan Pollard.”

Israel is due to free a fourth and final tranche of 26 prisoners this weekend under a deal that saw the relaunch of US-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians in late July 2013.

So far, it has released 78 of a promised 104, nearly all of whom had been jailed for more than 20 years.

The fourth group of prisoners has garnered fierce opposition because, for the first time, it includes 14 Arab Israelis jailed for nationalist attacks.

Israel wants the so-far inconclusive peace talks extended beyond their April 29 deadline, and ministers have warned that should the Palestinians refuse, the remaining prisoners will not be freed.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Amman later on Wednesday in an attempt to find a formula to extend the talks. - Sapa-AFP


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