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Kerry holds 'frank' call with Netanyahu ahead of talks

John Kerry phoned the Israeli and Palestinian leaders during his ongoing trip in Brazil. Credit: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

US Secretary of State John Kerry has held a "very frank" phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to keep the move towards Middle East peace on track.

Mr Kerry said he held a "very frank and open, direct discussion of (Israel's announced new) settlements" that Palestinian negotiators said had threatened to "undermine" talks, which are set to resume tomorrow in Jerusalem.

He also spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who he said was "committed to continue to come to this negotiation," despite the building of 1,000 new apartments in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Read: Critics accuse Israel of undermining prisoner pledge

Kerry: Israel settlement plan will not be a 'speed bump'

US Secretary of State John Kerry Credit: Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said he does not believe Israel's approval of 1,200 new settlements home will derail the second round of Middle East peace talks this week.

Speaking during a visit to Colombia, he said: "I do not believe it will become what you call a speed bump in that sense."

He also restated the America's position that it views the settlements as illegitimate.

Mr Kerry added that the controversy underscored the importance of getting to the negotiating table quickly and resolving the questions with respect to settlements.

"Once you have security and borders solved, you have resolved the question of settlements," he told reporters.

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Israel to free first group of Palestinian prisoners

An Israeli cabinet panel today decided to free 26 Palestinian prisoners over the next few days as part of a deal that will see peace talks resume, an official statement said.

The prisoners would be the first of four groups totalling 104 that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet last month agreed to release in a step aimed at renewing negotiations.

The decision comes three days before a scheduled second round of Israeli-Palestinian talks being held in Israel and the West Bank.

Palestinian patience with settlements 'limited'

The chief negotiator for the Palestinian people Saeb Erekat has warned that his country's patience with new settlement building is 'limited' but said that he would not be forced to leave the negotiating table.

"Those who do these things are determined to undermine the peace negotiations, are determined to force people like us to leave the negotiating table," he said in an interview conducted before the announcement of the 1,000 new settlements was revealed.

"We are determined to give this effort of six to nine months every chance it deserves ... it's time for the Israeli government to choose negotiations and show good faith."

1,000 apartments for East Jerusalem and West Bank

The Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel has approved plans to build 1,000 apartments in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Three days before the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are to resume in Jerusalem, plans for nearly 800 apartments in east Jerusalem and nearly 400 in several large West Bank settlements have been approved.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had long insisted he would not resume talks without an Israeli settlement freeze. In the end, he relented under intense U.S. pressure.

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Obama commends Palestinian & Israeli leaders on talks

US President Barack Obama has called Palestinian and Israeli leaders to commend their "leadership and courage" in resuming peace talks.

Obama made separate calls to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said.

US President Barack Obama.
US President Barack Obama has called Palestinian and Israeli leaders to commend them. Credit: Pool/ABACA USA/Empics Entertainment

He told both leaders the US wants to support them in achieving peace.

In an agreement brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the two sides ended a five-year freeze on peace talks and resumed negotiations.

Read: Middle East peace talks resume

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