Avi Issacharoff, Barak Ravid
January 14, 2009 - 1:00am

Egypt continued on Tuesday to urge Hamas to accept its cease-fire proposal for the Gaza Strip. Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman told Hamas representatives to the talks in Cairo that the organization would have to commit to a one-year cease-fire. Hamas officials told the Egyptians that it would be willing to accept the proposal if the changes demanded by the organization are made.
Spain's Foreign Minister, Miguel Moratinos, met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Sunday. He told her that the Egyptian proposal calls for renewing the cease-fire at the end of one year. Moratinos said that Suleiman and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told him on Monday that the cease-fire "is a matter of a few days." He added that neither side wants the fighting to continue after United States President-elect Barack Obama takes office on January 20.

Moratinos noted that Syria's President Bashar Assad has expressed willingness to aid Egypt in its talks with Hamas, and to use his influence with Hamas political bureau head Khaled Meshal, who is based in Damascus, to accept Cairo's proposal.

London's Al Hayat newspaper reported on Tuesday that Hamas officials in Gaza said their organization would be open to the deployment of Turkish forces in the Strip, citing their trust in a fellow Muslim state. That report was not confirmed by other sources.

Al Arabiya television reported that Hamas officials at the Cairo talks asked for clarifications regarding the timing of the Israel Defense Forces withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, as well as the reopening of border crossings into Israel, as specified in the Egyptian proposal.

Egypt's proposal calls for an immediate and indefinite cease-fire, with Israeli troop withdrawals and the border crossing reopenings to be subsequently determined in negotiations. These two stages are to be followed by the renewal of talks between Hamas and Fatah toward Palestinian national reconciliation.

Maher Taher, a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine official representing the Palestinian organizations in Syria at the Cairo talks, utterly rejected the Egyptian initiative, which he said calls for a cease-fire of 10 to 15 years, the deployment of international forces in Gaza, and the suspension of weapons manufacturing and all smuggling into Gaza.

The Cairo talks are expected to continue despite the fact that the Israeli representative, Amos Gilad, postponed his attendance there once again.

Egyptian sources told Haaretz on Tuesday that Hamas is under Syrian and Iranian pressure not to accept the Egyptian proposal. "We want a cease-fire," one Egyptian official said. "Afterward everything else can be put on the table - the Israeli withdrawal, an end to the rocket attacks and the smuggling."


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