Hamas delegation in Cairo for talks on Gaza ceasefire

January 25th, 2009 - 6:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Cairo, Jan 25 (DPA) Egyptian officials were Sunday meeting with representatives of Hamas and other Palestinian factions in talks aimed at turning a one-week ceasefire into a durable truce, Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency said.Speaking to the satellite news network al-Arabiya, Ayman Taha, a representative of Hamas from Gaza, said that the group would not agree to an open-ended truce, but was prepared to negotiate an 18-month ceasefire.

Hamas representatives had previously said they would not agree to a truce for longer than a year.

Taha said that Hamas was prepared to accept Fatah guards at the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, provided they were from Gaza, not the West Bank.

He also repeated Hamas’ request for Turkish monitors to join European peacekeepers at all of Gaza’s border crossings.

Speaking to London’s pan-Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat Saturday, Taha stressed that Hamas welcomed the idea of international monitors “on the condition that they be placed at all crossings - whether between Gaza and Egypt or Gaza and Israel”.

He further said that Hamas refused to tie negotiations on captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s fate to the negotiations on control of Gaza’s borders. Hamas captured Shalit at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Gaza and Israel in June 2006.

Taha told the newspaper that the Hamas delegation had requested that talks with the Egyptians should not include members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ rival Fatah faction for the moment.

“Once we close talks on the ceasefire, we have no objection to starting talks on reconciliation, on the condition that (Abbas) release Hamas detainees from Palestinian Authority jails,” Taha said.

Egypt is hosting parallel talks with Israel and Palestinian groups, trying to turn both sides’ unilateral ceasefire declarations into a single, lasting truce agreement.

A Hamas delegation led by senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil arrived in Cairo late Friday night, followed soon after by a delegation from Hamas leaders living in exile in Syria and a delegation from the Palestinian National Authority.

On Thursday, Israeli negotiator Amos Gilad discussed with Egyptian officials measures to stop weapons smuggling through tunnels that connect Egypt with the Hamas-controlled Strip, a key Israeli demand.

Israel withdrew the last of its soldiers from Gaza Wednesday afternoon, removing the first sticking point in negotiations.

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