Two top Israeli envoys are in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, to attend
talks with Egyptian mediators, in a bid to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.
Palestinian representatives are meeting with the Egyptians separately.
Egyptian diplomats are conducting grueling diplomatic negotiations with Israeli and Palestinian representatives in Cairo.
were closed-lipped about progress in the discussions, but officials
from the militant Hamas group, which controls the Gaza Strip, cast a
pall over the talks by declaring from Damascus that an Egyptian peace
proposal was "not an acceptable basis" for solving the crisis.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit earlier indicated that Israeli and Hamas negotiators will not meet face-to-face.
has reportedly been trying to reach a temporary ceasefire between
Israel and Hamas, which may later evolve into a permanent ceasefire.
Jazeera TV reports that Israeli Defense Ministry envoy Amos Gilad was
conferring with Egyptian Intelligence Head, General Omar Suleiman, the
architect of a six-month truce last year between Israel and Hamas.
between Egypt and Israel reportedly center around putting an end to
weapons smuggling through tunnels into Gaza from the Egyptian side of
the border. A ceasefire will reportedly be called, once the border can
The issue of re-opening border crossings into Gaza
remains a stumbling block, because Hamas is insisting they be reopened
immediately and unconditionally.
Meanwhile, French President
Nicholas Sarkozy, who jointly authored a peace plan with Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak, brought German Prime Minister Angela Merkel on
board to support it, following meetings in Paris. Both said they are
prepared to do whatever is necessary to reach a Gaza ceasefire, putting
an end to Israel's 13-day-old military offensive.
indicated that he was grateful to Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and
the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani for putting
pressure on Hamas to stop its rocket attacks against Israel. Hamas,
whose top leader is based in Damascus, is an ally of Syria.
Prime Minister Merkel said "time is of the essence" and everything must
be done to get a quick ceasefire, including guarantees for Israel's
security and an end to weapons smuggling.
Also in Paris, Mideast
Envoy Tony Blair said he believes a deal is possible if it includes the
closing of tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border and a reopening of
He says a truce would be a short-term solution,
but for the long term, it is absolutely necessary to have a negotiated
peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
the European Union, which helps run the Rafah border post, on the
Egyptian border, and the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud
Abbas, to negotiate the details of reopening the crossing, later.
But Hamas says that European monitors would be considered "hostile forces".
sources say President Mahmoud Abbas is due Friday in Cairo to meet with
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
is also expected to visit Egypt on Saturday or Sunday, but it is not
clear if he will meet with Mr. Abbas.