Image: Nicolas Sarkozy and Mahmoud Abbas
Remy De La Mauviniere  /  AP
French President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes the President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas, before a meeting in Paris on Monday.
updated 2/2/2009 5:16:42 PM ET 2009-02-02T22:16:42

A Hamas delegation will meet Egyptian mediators Tuesday for talks aimed at reaching a long-term cease-fire with Israel, a spokesman for the militant group said.

The spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said this will be the final round of talks and Hamas, which wants a one-year cease-fire in Gaza, will base its final decision on the outcome.

A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo late Monday night for the talks.

Egypt, a key mediator between Israel and Hamas, is hoping to forge a truce by Thursday. Israel wants a halt to Palestinian militant rocket fire that set off its punishing 22-day offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers, as well as a stop to weapons smuggling.

Hamas wants blockade lifted
Hamas' top demand is the lifting of a crippling blockade on the crowded, impoverished Gaza Strip, including the opening of its borders with Israel and Egypt to allow in desperately needed aid. The crossings have remained sealed to all but a trickle of supplies since Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007 from its rivals in another Palestinian group.

The Hamas delegation, which includes officials from its exiled leadership in Syria, will be briefed by the Egyptians about their separate meetings with the Israelis. Hamas and Israel do not negotiate directly.

Abu Zuhri, who spoke from Damascus in an interview on Al-Jazeera television, again said the group would not negotiate the release of a captured Israeli soldier held in Gaza as part of a cease-fire deal. Sgt. Gilad Schalit was captured in 2006 by Hamas-allied militants.

He also said talk of Hamas ending efforts to arm itself was out of the question.

"We are a resistance movement and an occupied people and it is our right to possess weapons," Abu Zuhri said.

Concerns about weapons smuggling
Israel does not want any deal that gives Hamas a role in controlling Gaza border crossings out of concern that that would permit continued weapons smuggling. But putting the borders in the hands of Hamas' rivals in the Palestinian Authority will require a reconciliation deal between the divided Palestinian factions.

The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, was in Cairo on Monday for talks with Egyptian mediators trying to reconcile the two sides. He then went on to Paris for talks with French leaders.

On Sunday, Abbas told reporters in Cairo that he would not hold reconciliation talks with Hamas unless it accepts his authority. Since Hamas' 2007 takeover of Gaza, Abbas and his government have been in control only of the West Bank.

In Paris, Abbas met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who helped broker the Gaza cease-fire. He warned that the truce remains fragile.

'Government of national unity'
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Abbas called for a "solution with Hamas in the framework of a government of national unity," but he rejected the militant group's call to create a new political structure to replace the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Sarkozy also met Monday with Qatar's prime minister, whose Persian Gulf country has emerged as a regional mediator. Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani insisted Hamas should not be sidelined from peace efforts and Arab countries should not play favorites.

Also on Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Abbas' top 10 Arab allies, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are set to meet in Abu Dhabi to discuss Palestinian reconciliation and reducing Iranian influence in the region.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments