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Egypt pushes for implementing Gaza ceasefire proposal

Source: Xinhua | 01-11-2009 08:51

Special Report:   Israel airstrikes in Gaza

by Yu Zhongwen

CAIRO, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Egypt has been in intensive contacts with parties concerned recently to push for the implementation of a ceasefire initiative in the Gaza Strip proposed by President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday.

On Saturday morning, Mubarak held talks with visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the Egyptian proposal.

At a press conference following talks with Mubarak, Abbas urged Israel to accept the Egyptian plan in a bid to put an end to the conflict in the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas said that Israel must accept the Egyptian proposal or "face the responsibility over the conflict," noting the Egyptian proposal is the only way forward to end the Gaza crisis.

On Tuesday, during talks with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy Mubarak presented a three-point proposal for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, which calls for an immediate ceasefire for a limited period to allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza and give Egypt time to continue its efforts to help reach a lasting truce.

Egypt would invite both Israel and the Palestinians for negotiation and help resume the inter-Palestinian reconciliation talks, according to the proposal.

The talks between Mubarak and Abbas is the second one since Israel launched offensive against the Palestinian enclave on Dec. 27.

Abbas said he still believes in peace though the Israeli attacks has entered the 15th day.

The Palestinian leader also called on Hamas to reach an agreement to end the conflict "without hesitation."

"We hope Hamas will reach an agreement without hesitation," said Abbas, adding "The situation does not allow us to lose time."

On Saturday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also arrived in Egypt for talks with Mubarak, hailing the ongoing international and Egyptian efforts in forging a ceasefire in Gaza.

Steinmeier also met here with Abbas, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa on the latest developments in the Middle East.

On the proposed international presence in the Palestinian territories, Abul Gheit ruled out the possibility of deploying international troops at the Egyptian border with Gaza.

"Any kind of international troops will not be on the Egyptian side," Abul Gheit told the press after talks with Steinmeier.

Earlier on Saturday, Abbas called for an international presence in Gaza to protect Palestinian civilians in the coastal strip, but stressing that the international force should be only on the Palestinian lands.

"We are calling for the presence of an international force to protect the Palestinians," said Abbas, "We want the international force to be deployed in Gaza, not on the Egyptian borders."

Egypt has been also in contacts with Israel and Hamas on the ceasefire proposal.

According to the Egyptian MENA news agency, Emad al-Alami, headof Hamas office in Syria, arrived in Egypt on Saturday for talks with Egyptian mediators on the ceasefire plan.

Another Hamas delegation, grouping three Hamas leaders, Ayman Taha, Jamal Abu Hashim and Salah el-Bardawil from the embattled Gaza Strip, crossed into Egypt Friday night via Rafah crossing to join the talks with Egyptian mediators on the current situation in the Palestinian enclave.

But leaders of 10 Palestinian factions in Syria, including the exiled Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Abdallah Shalah and Ahmed Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, has rejected international deployment in Gaza.

"The deployment of international forces in the Gaza Strip aims at neutralizing the resistance in Gaza in light of continuing occupation and separation of Gaza from the West Bank," said Muhammad Nazzal, a senior official of Hamas.

An Israeli delegation arrived in Egypt and discussed "the main details and how to implement (the Egyptian proposal)" on Thursday.

About 854 Palestinians have been killed and more than 3,500 injured in the 15-day Israeli offensive against Gaza in retaliation for the rocket attacks by Hamas militants.