Kerry ends visit to Israel after talks with Netanyahu

JERUSALEM, April 1 -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry departed from Israel following a short and unplanned visit amid a crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kerry met twice with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two met in a three-hour meeting on Monday evening and another two-hour meeting on Tuesday morning, prior to Kerry's departure for Brussels to a NATO meeting, an official source told Xinhua.

Kerry did not meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah as originally planned, however he might return to Israel later this week.

Kerry's visit aimed to salvage the deteriorating peace talks, amid crisis over the issue of the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Israel was supposed to release the last group of 26 prisoners out of an overall 104 prisoners on Saturday. However, it is delayed due to the hawkish right-wing objection to the release of 14 Israeli Arab prisoners.

Israel demands that the U.S. release American-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who has been incarcerated since 1987. According to the source, Israel offered to release 400 prisoners including Israeli-Arabs and freeze government tenders to build homes in the settlements, in exchange for the release of the spy.

The deal would allow the extension of the talks beyond the April 29 deadline and prevent the Palestinian Authority from making unilateral moves at the United Nations.

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