Cairo talks on Gaza truce 'moving in right direction': Palestinian negotiator

Amira Howeidy, Monday 4 Aug 2014

Egypt and the Palestinians are on the same page after a meeting discussing ceasefire demands says Islamic Jihad’s Ziad Nakhala

Palestinians inspect the damage to a house in the Jebaliya refugee camp that was hit by an Israeli strike that killed several members of the Abu Wahdan family, in the northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014. (AP Photo)

A senior figure from Islamic Jihad has said that the unified demands of the Palestinian delegation currently in Cairo for ceasefire talks were received positively by the Egyptian side on Sunday evening.

The demands include immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, end to blockade of the territory and opening all border crossings for people and merchandise and the release of all Palestinians detained by Israel in the West Bank since 12 June.

According to Ziad Nakhala, the deputy secretary-general of Islamic Jihad who represented his movement in today’s talks, “things are moving in the right direction and the climate [with the Egyptian side] has been positive.”

The Palestinian delegation, which consists of representatives of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other factions, convened in Cairo on Sunday and presented the Egyptian side with a set of demands for a ceasefire agreement with Israel, despite the latter’s boycott of the talks. An American delegation is currently present in Cairo for the negotiations.

According to Nakhala, the Palestinian delegation will resume its meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Mohamed Farid El-Tohamy on Monday, but progress has been made already. “We are in the final minutes of the talks,” he told Ahram Online.

This marks a significant shift in the strained relations between Cairo and the Palestinian resistance factions, especially Hamas, which led opposition to Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire agreement more than two weeks ago. The proposal made the opening of the of Gaza’s border crossings (with Israel and Egypt) conditional upon an improvement in the security situation, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad wanted clearer language guaranteeing effective measures to end the blockade.

The Egyptian initiative was finally rejected after talks with the Palestinians reached a dead end on 19 July, adding further mistrust and antipathy between Cairo and Hamas. As the Israeli assult on Gaza continued, efforts to revive ceasefire talks through mediators close to Hamas such as Turkey and Qatar had little impact on the escalating crisis, but might have drawn concerns in Cairo about its receding regional role.

After a 72-hour ceasefire agreement fell apart on Friday hours after it went into effect, Egypt remained adamant on mediating between the two sides and hosted a Palestinian delegation under the Palestinian Authority’s leadership. Although Israel officially boycotted the talks, it is indirectly conducting negotiations through Egyptian and US officials. 

With little expected from the Cairo talks in the absence of an Israeli delegation willing to engage in ceasefire negotiations, the Egyptian-Palestinian agreement expressed by Nakhala comes as a surprise, and has yet to be confirmed by Egyptian officials involved in the talks. 

“Time means blood and there is realisation from all parties that no one can afford more of it,” said Nakhala. 

It's unclear how the talks will move from this point or how the US delegation in Cairo perceives the Palestinian demands. “We want the guarantee of the Egyptians," said the Islamic Jihad leader, "if Cairo guarantees our demands [Egypt’s] officials will take it from there the way they see fit and we accept that."



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