Gaza ceasefire talks underway in Doha, Egypt absent

Joel Gulhane
4 Min Read
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (AFP Photo)
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (AFP Photo)
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
(AFP Photo)

Egypt’s ceasefire proposal continues to be the basis of talks aiming to end the violence in Gaza, however Egyptian officials are absent from high-level discussions on the issue held in Doha, Qatar on Sunday, said an anonymous foreign ministry source.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is set to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Gulf state. Ban arrived on Sunday and is set to travel to “Kuwait City, Cairo, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman in his effort to encourage a durable cease-fire”, according to a statement issued by the UN chief’s office.  Other stops may be added to his trip.

Abbas is also set to meet head of Hamas’ political bureau Khaled Meshaal in Qatar. Despite some media reports a foreign ministry official denied that Meshaal was invited to Cairo for talks on the situation.

Foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty confirmed Ban would arrive in Egypt on Monday to meet with officials including Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, following which the pair are expected to hold a press conference.

Shoukry continued to contact his counterparts in the Arab region, including the foreign ministers of Oman and Bahrain, as well as international counterparts such as German Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier and United States Secretary of State John Kerry.

Their conversations focused on the latest developments inside Gaza and “ways to stop the bleeding Palestinian blood and to prevent further escalation and an immediate cease-fire in the framework of the Egyptian initiative”, said the foreign ministry spokesman.

Egypt’s internationally backed ceasefire agreement, proposed on Monday last week, was accepted by Israel but Hamas rejected the proposal, claiming it was never officially approached by Egypt. Less than three days after the initiative was proposed the Israelis announced the start of a ground offensive in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian official confirmed to Daily News Egypt last week that Hamas was contacted indirectly through another Gaza based group, Islamic Jihad.

Egypt’s relationship with Hamas deteriorated following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s president. Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has fraternal ties with the Gaza-based resistance movement. In March Hamas was declared an illegal organisation inside Egypt and its offices and assets were seized as per court ruling.

Relations between Egypt and Qatar also deteriorated following Morsi’s ouster. Qatar was opposed to his removal and the state-sponsored satellite channel Al Jazeera was accused by Egypt’s authorities of spreading false news about Egypt’s political situation.

Morsi’s government managed to sponsor a ceasefire between Egypt and Israel in 2012, with the help of then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Shoukry said on Friday that the proposed initiative still offers the full chance to “end fighting, stop Palestinian bloodshed, lift the siege on the Gaza Strip by opening the borders” and the create the framework to hold negotiations on the concerns of both parties.

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Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane