US welcomes imminent Palestinian prisoner release
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Monday welcomed Israel's expected release of 26 Palestinian prisoners as Secretary of State John Kerry prepared to return to the region to hammer out a framework to guide fragile peace talks.
Mr Kerry "expresses his appreciation for Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu's decision to release the third tranche of prisoners", State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
"The Israeli government's commitment to release Palestinian prisoners helped enable the start... and the continuation of the final status negotiations, and we believe this is a positive step forward in the overall process," she added.
The prisoners were due to be released in the early hours of Tuesday. Mr Kerry is flying back to Israel on New Year's Day for his 10th trip to the country and the Palestinian territories since March.