Middle East
Cairo set for talks on Gaza truce
Israeli delegation in Egyptian capital amid "progress" in ceasefire negotiations.
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2009 13:04 GMT

Al-Bardawil said Hamas had put forward its
views on the Egyptian ceasefire plan

An Israeli delegation has arrived in Cairo for talks on an Egyptian ceasefire plan aimed at ending the war on Gaza, which has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians.

Thursday's talks come after Egypt said it had obtained the agreement of the Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, on the "broad outlines" of a truce.

Hamas said its delegates had provided the Egyptian mediators with the group's views on the plan.

"The movement has presented a detailed vision to the Egyptian leadership so that it can continue its pursuit to end the aggression and lift the injustice on our people in the Gaza Strip," Salah al-Bardawil, a Hamas official, said.

"The Egyptian leadership will ... discuss [the views] with the aggressor to reach the goals that we want. During this period we will monitor," he told a news conference after talks with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo.

"The Egyptian initiative is the only initiative that has been put forward to us, and we continue to co-ordinate with this."

The Egyptian plan calls for an immediate ceasefire followed by a long-term truce and the opening of Gaza's border crossings.

'Hamas positions'

Ahmed Abul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, said that Hamas's position would be given to Amos Gilad, the Israeli envoy sent to Cairo for the talks.


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"We will tell the Israelis what we have obtained from our brothers Hamas," Abul Gheit said.

"There are Hamas positions that we will discuss with the Israelis in the context of all the elements of [Egyptian] President [Hosni] Mubarak's initiative. We hope that things will move forwards but we will not enter into details."

Israel has made an end to its offensive conditional on a halt to rocketfire from Gaza into Israel and creating an effective mechanism to halt smuggling into the territory from Egypt.

It has said it will not agree to a short-term ceasefire, saying it would allow Hamas to strenghten and train in preparation for when the truce would end. 

"Israel will not accept a situation where Hamas gets a temporary period of quiet just to rearm and regroup and that ends with further rocket barrages on Israel," Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli government, said.

"Israel seeks a durable quiet that contains a total absence of hostile fire from Gaza into Israel and a working mechanism to prevent Hamas from rearming."

Al Jazeera's Zeina Awad, reporting from the Israel-Gaza border, said that Israeli officials and the local media were suggesting that any agreement would allow Israeli troops to stay in Gaza until it was clear that the ceasefire was holding. 

"They would only start pulling back, we expect, once international monitors come in, and of coure the Israelis will insist on having the right monitors from their point of view, whether they be American, Nato forces or European forces," she said.

'Clear' conditions

Hamas insists on an end to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, in effect since the group seized full control of the territory in June 2007, and an opening up of crossing points to normal traffic.

"We all know it is shameful to discuss the national and human cost of Gaza that has now been stained with children's blood at the margin of a previously planned summit"

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, emir of Qatar

Ismail Haniya, the head of the de facto Hamas government in Gaza, said that the group's conditions were "clear and simple".

"Israel must end its criminal war and slaughter of our people, lift completely and unconditionally its illegal siege of the Gaza Strip, open all our border crossings and completely withdraw from Gaza," he wrote in Britain's Independent newspaper.

Currently, Egypt's Rafah crossing with Gaza, the only one that bypasses Israel, can be opened if European Union monitors are present.

Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, his German counterpart, said in a statement released in Paris that "important progress" had been made in Egypt.

"We commend Egypt on its sustained effort to bring about an end of the fighting and Palestinian reconciliation," they said.

The two European nations also called for an immediate ceasefire to "provide space to address the humanitarian crisis".

Arab diplomacy

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has called for an emergency summit of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) to discuss the Gaza crisis, the Saudi foreign ministry said.

"Due to the escalation in the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, King Abdullah [the Saudi monarch] called for an emergency meeting for the GCC countries in the Saudi capital," the statement on Wednesday said.

Saudi plans for the summit in Riyadh on Thursday came a day after Qatar unveiled its own plan for an Arab League summit on the war to be held in Doha, the capital of Qatar, on Friday.

"We all know it is shameful to discuss the national and human cost of Gaza that has now been stained with children's blood at the margin of a previously planned summit," Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, said.

"We have renewed our invitation for an emergency Arab summit in Doha but whenever quorum has been reached it falls short again."

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Egypt's Mubarak have refused to attend the Qatar summit and said they prefer to hold consultations on Gaza on the sidelines of the Arab economic forum to be held in Kuwait next week.

The Arab League later said there was no quorum to convene a summit in Qatar.

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