WASHINGTON, April 2 (Xinhua) -- The White House on Wednesday voiced "disappointment" at "unhelpful unilateral actions" taken by the Israelis and Palestinians threatening to derail the U.S.- brokered peace talks.
"We are disappointed by the unhelpful unilateral actions that both parties have taken in recent days," spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
He said Secretary of State John Kerry was in "close touch" with the U.S. negotiation team on the ground, which was continuing discussions with the two sides to salvage the negotiations verging on collapse after being restarted in late last July.
"But the parties must take the necessary steps if they want to move forward," Earnest said. "Tit-for-tat actions and reactions are counterproductive and don't serve anybody's interests."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday signed documents to apply for membership to 15 United Nations agencies, after Israel refused to release a fourth and last tranche of 26 Palestinian prisoners, part of a deal to reopen the bilateral talks.
Israel has conditioned the release on Abbas' agreement to extend the talks beyond the original deadline of April 29, focus now of U.S. mediation efforts.
When the negotiations resumed after a hiatus of three years, Kerry had aimed for a deal within nine months on all the final- status issues -- security, border, the status of Jerusalem and refugees, but no visible progress had been made despite his hard push in a dozen visits to the region in the past year.
The parties had wrangled over other intractable issues like settlement building on the occupied land and security arrangements.
In his efforts to keep alive the talks, Kerry even discussed the release of Jonathan Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy who has been jailed since 1987 for spying for Israel, in exchange for Israel's concessions on settlements and prisoners release.
Earnest said only the Israelis and the Palestinians can make decisions and take steps to move the peace process forward, as the United States was just "facilitating" the efforts to find "some common ground."
He said President Barack Obama has not made a decision on Pollard's fate. "The fact of the matter is Mr. Pollard was tried and convicted of very serious crimes. He was sentenced to a rather lengthy prison sentence and he continues to serve it," he added.