White House spokesman Jay Carney sidestepped a question about whether the U.S. is weighing the possibility of an early release for Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for concessions in the Mideast peace talks.
Carney did not respond directly when asked Monday afternoon if he would break with previous administrations, which have emphatically stressed that Pollard not be considered a bargaining chip in any negotiations with the Israelis.
“What I'll say is that I have nothing new about Jonathan Pollard that I haven't said in the past, which is that he was convicted of espionage and he is serving his sentence," Carney told reporters Monday during his daily press briefing.
“When it comes to the Middle East peace process and the work being done with both parties to try to move the process forward, there's a lot of complicated moving parts,” he added.
The comments came amid reports in the Associated Press and Israeli media that the U.S. is talking with Israel about the possibility of releasing Pollard early.
Pollard's release would only come in exchange for significant Israeli concessions to the Palestinians that would allow the stalled peace talks to continue beyond an end-of-April deadline, the AP reported.
Pollard, an American, is serving a life sentence for passing classified information to Israel while working as a civilian intelligence analyst. He pleaded guilty in 1987.
He is eligible for parole and may be released on Nov. 21, 2015.
On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf denied that U.S. officials offered to release Pollard as part of a deal to extend the peace talks.
“There are currently no plans to release Jonathan Pollard as part of any deal involving the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations,” she said.
Israeli army radio last week claimed the Obama administration offered to release Pollard.