Kerry Focusing on Humanitarian Ceasefire
U.S.-led efforts to end the conflict between Israel and Hamas are focused on a week-long humanitarian ceasefire, during which intensive negotiations will tackle the blockade of Gaza and other disputes, officials said on Thursday, according to AFP.
Secretary of State John Kerry, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond were in Cairo on Thursday to push forward the plan, Arab and Western diplomats said.
"We still have more work to do. I certainly have some work to do tonight," Kerry was quoted as having said as he started a late-night meeting with Ban, their third this week as both men shuttle the region.
The humanitarian ceasefire would allow Hamas to save face after having rejected an Egyptian initiative last week that proposed a lasting truce first and negotiations later.
According to Western and Palestinian Arab officials, once a humanitarian lull takes hold, delegations from Israel and Hamas would arrive in Cairo - which has mediated past conflicts between the two - for indirect talks that could lead to a durable truce.
"The way it's going is there will be a humanitarian truce declared for seven days, and then everyone comes to Cairo for the talks," said an official with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
A Western diplomat said Washington and Britain had not offered "guarantees" to Hamas, which the United States and Israel have designated as a terrorist group.
"But if you do this humanitarian pause, there will be serious negotiations," the diplomat said of the offer to Hamas, made through intermediaries.
Hamas officials would not immediately comment on the proposal, as Kerry, hunkered down in a Cairo hotel, kept up his phone calls to push forward a deal.
Kerry placed multiple calls to officials in Qatar, where Hamas's leader is based, and Turkey for help in persuading the militants to accept a ceasefire, a State Department official said.
"The pieces are not all in place yet," said another Western diplomat. "The Israelis don't want any conditions, and Hamas feels they need conditions given their past experience."
An Egyptian official confirmed that diplomatic efforts have shifted to a humanitarian truce. Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared on Wednesday that Israel must accept his list of unprecedented conditions for a ceasefire - which included lifting several security measures, such as the naval blockade and border control, designed to prevent terrorists entering into Israel, as well as re-releasing terrorists arrested earlier this month.