CAIRO: While Egypt has stated that “good progress is being made on the Hamas-Israel front, the group in Gaza has criticized Egypt for seemingly wanting to exclude it from the peace process.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in Washington, “We are making good progress, but the difficulty we face is that often, often, certain trends inside Israel challenge the idea and certain trends inside Gaza challenge the idea and maybe, maybe there could also be a foreign element, alluding to the United States.
Aboul Gheit said that for peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel to go smoothly, a “period of quiet was being negotiated with Hamas.
“Hamas wants to call it a period of quiet. That suits the Israelis because they do not want to reach a signed, written agreement with Hamas, he said.
“I think over time, Hamas will have to change because by not changing they are damaging prospects for Palestinian peace, Aboul Gheit said.
Hamas has responded negatively to Aboul Gheit’s comments, as well as the insinuation they perceived in his comments that for the peace process to go smoothly, negotiations must be carried out with a PA government which does not include Hamas.
“We do not constrain anything. Waiving the rights of the Palestinian people constrains things. We will prove to the Egyptian officials that the Palestinians have elected Hamas to form the government, and that the Hamas presence reflects the respect for the will of the people, Hamas spokesman Taher El-Nuno told Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.
Another Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahra said that Aboul Gheit’s statements indicated that he did not recognize the legitimacy of Hamas, which won a free and fair election witnessed by the world.
Egypt’s mediation plan consists of Hamas ending rocket fire into Southern Israel, with Israel reciprocating in Gaza, a prisoner exchange of 400 Palestinian prisoners for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and the opening of border crossings between Gaza and Israel.
“If the crossings are to be open, then we would ensure that the flow of goods, of people, of material and of everything is allowed and the Palestinians in Gaza will not feel deprived as they do right now, Aboul Gheit said.
The foreign minister also indicated that Egypt had information that Shalit was still alive. It was reported that Israel was hesitant in accepting the number of Palestinians to be exchanged for Shalit.
“Our position on pacification is that is has to be mutual. The siege must be lifted. And it is Israel that is impeding an agreement, El-Nuno said.s