Accessibility links

Breaking News

Israeli Defense Minister to Discuss Hamas with Egyptian President

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is set to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss a proposed truce between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

Barak is expected to meet Mr. Mubarak and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman Monday in the Egyptian town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

A Hamas delegation headed by former foreign minister Mahmud Zahar also is expected in Egypt today. They will hold their own discussions with Suleiman about a possible ceasefire with Israel.

Egypt has been acting as a mediator between the two sides because the Israeli government refuses to negotiate directly with Hamas.

Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006, and then seized control of the Gaza Strip last year. Militants loyal to the radical group have been firing rockets at Israel ever since.

Israel has imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip to pressure the militants to end their attacks.

Israel, the United States and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

In Paris today, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner admitted that France has had informal contact with Hamas. He told Europe-1 radio that the contacts were limited, but necessary for France's diplomacy in the region.

The Hamas-led violence has complicated peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

U.S. President George Bush said Sunday in Egypt that Israel must make tough sacrifices, and the Palestinians must fight terrorism, to reach a peace deal this year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.