Israel-Palestine peace talks begin as 26 Palestinian prisoners released (VIDEO)



A protester waves an Israeli flag covered in mock blood next to an Israeli woman holding a picture of a dead relative during a demonstration against the release of some 26 Palestinians prisoners — most of whom were arrested for killing Israelis — in the city of Tel Aviv on August 12, 2013.



With both sides saying they have little faith in the process, representatives from Israel and Palestine met on Wednesday for the first time in almost three years to talk peace.

Meetings began inside Jerusalem's King David hotel, although there was no information from inside about what was discussed, Jewish News One reported.

According to the Associated Press, a video from the Israeli government showed Yitzhak Molcho and Tzipi Livni of Israel greeting Palestinian representative Saeb Erekat. Reporters and cameras were banned from recording the meeting.

The two sides are scheduled to meet every two weeks in Jerusalem, Ramallah in the West Bank or Amman, Jordan, Jewish News One said on its website.

According to the TV station, the status of Jerusalem is paramount. Palestinians want to establish a capital in East Jerusalem, while Israel demands the city remain "unified" under its control.

Meetings happened shortly after Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners late Tuesday as part of a deal that allowed the peace talks to resume.

Buses left the Ayalon jail in central Israel, taking 11 of the inmates to the Beitunia checkpoint in the West Bank and the 15 others to the Erez crossing with Gaza.

Most of the prisoners were convicted of murder, while others were involved in attempted murders or kidnappings. The names of the 26 inmates were posted online Monday by Israel's Prison Service, giving two days for possible appeals, but the Supreme Court rejected an appeal early Tuesday by families of those killed by some of the prisoners.

More from GlobalPost: Israel: On peace talks, prisoners, and a lot of pain

Most of those jailed had already served around 20 years, with the longest-held inmate arrested in 1985.

The release was thought to be done overnight in order to downplay scenes of celebration and media coverage, although a large portion of the Palestinian public sees the Israeli gesture as coming too late.

The prisoners' release was part of an agreement brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry in an attempt to resume peace talks between Israel and Palestinians that came to a halt in the fall of 2010, BBC reported.

In total, 104 prisoners are to be released in four batches as part of the agreement, although the freedom of the next three batches relies on how the peace talks progress.

The talks resumed after Israelis and Palestinians attended a preparatory round two weeks ago in Washington.

Observers from both sides expressed doubt before the meetings.

“We set ourselves the goal of nine months in which we will try to reach something with the Palestinians,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the Jerusalem Post. “We’ve been trying for 20 years since Oslo, and for over 120 years of the conflict. ... The skepticism in the tone of my remarks is apparent, but we’ve decided to give it a chance.”

That Israel announced plans for 2,000 new settlement homes has dampened Palestinian expectations.

"The talks might collapse any time because of the Israeli practices," Palestine Liberation Organization representative Yasser Abed Rabbo said, BBC reported.

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