The first direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in three years are set to begin in Jerusalem.

Few details have been released about the location, timing or agenda of the talks and both sides have been cautious about achieving any breakthrough.

Overnight, Israel freed 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of the deal to restart negotiations.

Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem continue to overshadow the resumption.

The issue halted the last direct talks in September 2010 and Palestinian representatives have accused Israel of trying to sabotage the latest negotiations.

In recent days Israel has announced plans for more than 2,000 new settlement homes.

Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) official Yasser Abed Rabbo said the settlement expansion was “unprecedented”.

“The talks might collapse any time because of the Israeli practices,” he told Voice of Palestine radio.

There has also been scepticism on the Israeli side.

The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday reported “extremely low” expectations about the latest talks.

It quoted Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon as saying: “We’ve been trying for 20 years since Oslo, and for over 120 years of the conflict. The scepticism in the tone of my remarks is apparent, but we’ve decided to give it a chance.”

However, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri said an effort had to be made, adding: “We won’t have a lot more chances to solve this conflict.”

‘First course’

The talks are expected to be held under a media blackout.

Their aim is to negotiate an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the so-called two-state solution – a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel.

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