Friday, 20 February 2009

French FM: No Reason to Link Shalit Deal with Gaza Crossings


Hanan Awarekeh

20/02/2009 French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Friday that Paris does not agree with Israel's position that a deal must be set for the release of captured Israeli occupation soldier Gilad Shalit before Gaza Strip crossings are opened.

Kouchner said that France support an Egyptian proposal for a truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and does not believe it necessary to link Shalit with any cease-fire deal. The two issues should be worked out simultaneously, Kouchner said, but the one should not be conditioned on the other.

He also confirmed that France has been indirectly negotiating with Hamas via mediation of Syria, Qatar and Norway.


Meanwhile, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabir al-Thani told French President Nicolas Sarkozy when the two leaders met in Paris two weeks ago that he would engage Hamas intensively to help release Shalit, according to a foreign source.

Israel is still waiting for an answer from Hamas and Egypt on a proposal for marathon talks in Cairo on a new list of Palestinian detainees to exchange for Shalit.

Sarkozy told al-Thani this was a humanitarian issue and that Shalit was also French citizen, ignoring at the same time thousands of Palestinians detainees in the Israeli jails, including minors and women in addition to many parliamentarians. A few months ago Sarkozy gave al-Thani a letter from the Shalit family for Gilad, who gave it to Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal.

Mashaal, who visits Qatar frequently, is there now as a participant in a conference on assistance to the Gaza Strip. Olmert's emissary for the Shalit affair, Ofer Dekel, returned Thursday from meetings abroad on Shalit and informed Olmert of the results.

The Israeli government source said Hamas and Egypt have "not been enthusiastic" about a meeting in Cairo about the new detainee list.

Hamas's conditions for truce, swapping of prisoners

[ 20/02/2009 - 10:52 AM ]

DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Senior Palestinian political leader MP Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar has reiterated Thursday Hamas's conditions for truce in the Gaza Strip, and for swapping prisoners with the Israeli occupation government, stressing that the two files are separate, holding the Israeli occupation government responsible for derailing Egypt's efforts in this regard.

Zahhar, who is the legitimate PA foreign affairs minister, asserted in an interview with the PIC that his Movement has coordinated with Egypt in both files, and both Egypt and Palestine positions in this regard were identical, but, he added, the Israelis were deliberately derailing those efforts with the aim to embarrass the Egyptian leadership.

He also underlined that the file of swapping prisoners was absolutely separated from the file of the truce, adding that if the Israeli occupation government wants its captured soldier Gilad Shalit to return home, then that government should answer Hamas's conditions and release Palestinian prisoners placed on the list that was submitted to them (Israelis). He described Israel's attempts to mix the two files as "last minute dodging" that aims at blackmailing Hamas.

"They (Israelis) are trying to circumvent the list of names of our prisoners that we had submitted to them (through the Egyptians), and they are trying to delete and add some names on it, but the names that they are refusing to release are the core of the prisoners' swap deal" underscored Zahhar.

Reacting to Egypt's decision to postpone, for a while, the invitation for inter-Palestinian dialogue in Cairo, Zahhar explained that Egypt's program for the next stage was in series as it prioritized the truce agreement and opening of crossing points before it started the prisoners swap deal, and finally the inter-Palestinian dialogue; but due to the Israeli rejection of the truce deal, the said program was delayed.

The Palestinian leader also disclosed the role the seven Arab countries that would sponsor the Palestinian national dialogue, pointing out that those countries will be the supreme reference for any Palestinian understanding achieved in the dialogue, and to follow up the committees that would be created by the dialogue to tackle the main issues of disputes between Hamas and Fatah movements. Qatar, Egypt, Syria, and Algeria in addition to three other "important" Arab countries would sponsor the talks, highlighted Zahhar.

As far as the results of the Israeli elections are concerned, Zahhar said, "The fact that the Israeli far right would most probably form the new Israeli cabinet, after extremist Israeli leader Avigdor Lieberman expressed his support for Binyamin Netanyahu, would certainly unveil the real face of Zionism; and if those who ruled in the past succeeded in covering that face through the meetings and negotiations they held with the Ramallah-based PA (in allusion to Kadima party under Ehud Olmert), then I would believe that such thing isn't possible with the next Israeli cabinet".
He finally stressed that amidst the new changes in the Hebrew state, the advantage of continuing the negotiations with the Israelis and the "peace" option that the other Palestinian party (Fatah and the Ramallah government) sees as strategic option will be in a very embarrassing position.