Middle East envoy Tony Blair is saying that the "elements are in place" for a ceasefire in Gaza, after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Egyptian diplomatic efforts to mediate a cease-fire, meanwhile, have hit a number of snags.
Diplomatic efforts to put an end to the conflict in Gaza continue in the Egyptian capital Cairo, as special Middle East envoy Tony Blair paid an unexpected visit to discuss the Egyptian peace plan with President Hosni Mubarak.
Blair was upbeat and optimistic after discussing the latest developments with President Mubarak and relaying messages from Israeli leaders from his visit to Israel, Sunday.
All the "necessary elements" for a cease-fire, he insisted, are "in place".
"I think the elements of an agreement for the immediate cease fire are there," Blair said. "I think they are now being worked on very hard in great detail. This is a sensitive and delicate time in that negotiation, but I hope they will bear fruit and I hope so soon, because obviously the sooner this comes to an end, the better for everybody. So we will continue to work very hard in this. I have had a whole series of discussions with the various players in this over the past few days."
Blair says 'credible cease-fire' consists of 2 key elements
Blair also stressed the two key elements of what he called a "credible cease-fire"; the Israeli demand that the flow of weapons into Gaza be stopped, and the Palestinian demand that border crossings be reopened.
"I am hopeful we can put an agreement together but it is going to have to be worked on very hard and it has got to be credible. Credible both in terms of stopping the supply of weapons into Gaza, but credible also in terms of opening up Gaza and allowing the Gazan people to get what they need from the outside world."
Diplomatic negotiations have been grueling, with Hamas leaders issuing statements from Damascus, while Israeli leaders have apparently been balking at demands for a quick withdrawal from Gaza before the flow of weapons is stopped.
Al Jazeera TV reports that Hamas delegates finished a six-hour meeting with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, Sunday, before returning to confer with their political leaders in Gaza and Damascus.
A visit to Cairo by Deputy Israeli Defense Minister Amos Gilad was postponed without explanation, and a long-rumored visit by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to discuss developments with President Mubarak also has not materialized.