Saturday, June 14, 2008

Israel plays it coy on Gaza talks

An agreement on a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and an easing of the blockade of the Gaza Strip could be imminent. An Israeli official refused to be specific on Saturday but did say the results of indirect negotiations would be known "in the near term," a suggestion that indirect talks involving Egypt could be making progress. Egypt has been brokering talks for months between Israel and Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority more than a year ago. Israel and Hamas do not recognize each other and refuse to hold direct talks. Israel and the West consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization. Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad represented Israel in discussions with Egypt over the Hamas mediation, according to the Reuters international news service. "We are holding discussions with the Egyptians and we have the reaction, which I will not detail," Gilad said. "We will know the results in the near term." Egypt and Israel have agreed to separate the ceasefire issue from the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza militants two years ago, according to the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, which would make a near-term agreement possible.

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