US envoy seeks extension of Gaza truce

AFP , Friday 1 Aug 2014

The number-two US diplomat will head to Cairo and seek to extend beyond 72 hours a truce agreed by Israel and Hamas, a senior US official said Friday.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns -- a veteran career diplomat frequently tasked with delicate missions -- will travel to Egypt this weekend to take part in talks as part of the three-day truce that took effect Friday, the official said.

The official said Burns would look to see if the two sides can extend the truce in the deadly conflict, especially as negotiators need time to travel to Cairo. Israeli officials rarely meet during the Jewish Sabbath that starts at sundown on Friday.

"There is a hope for an extension because people have to travel and don't want to lose a whole day," a senior US official said on condition of anonymity in New Delhi, where Secretary of State John Kerry was on a visit.

But the official said an extension also depended on compromises during the talks, which aim to find a more lasting solution to the Gaza crisis after the bloodshed.

"We obviously hope there will be (an extension of the ceasefire) and would encourage that, but obviously to do so there's got to be some sense of serious purpose on the table," the official said.

Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the 72-hour truce after intense diplomacy involving Israel, the Palestinians and key regional players, including Egypt.

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