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Abbas says extension of peace talks needs tangible Israeli steps

RAMALLAH, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked U.S. President Barack Obama to press Israel to release Palestinian prisoners and freeze Israeli settlement for the extension of the peace talks ultimatum, a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

The meeting held in the White House this week between Abbas and Obama "was difficult and wasn't decisive in terms of agreeing on the framework peace deal or agreeing on extending the peace talks with Israel," the official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

"Obama focused on extending the talks' ultimatum instead of focusing on the framework peace agreement U.S. Secretary of State John proposed to both sides to sign on," said the official.

The official noted that it was significant that Obama was concerned to avoid any U.S. failure in the peace talks.

"President Abbas clearly informed Obama that the Palestinian leadership opposes the extension of the talks in general and faces popular Palestinian pressure to end it because it is not fruitful, " said the official.

Abbas also told Obama that the extension of the peace talks " needs tangible Israeli steps that convince the Palestinian public opinion, such as the release of prisoners and freezing settlement activities," according to the official.

It was clear that Abbas faces United States' heavy pressure, where he expressed commitment to Obama not to go to the UN for full recognition before full coordination with the U.S. administration, said the official.

Under the efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians resumed last July and are supposed to end in April. However, both Israeli and Palestinian officials said no tangible progress was made.

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