Abu Marzouk 224 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Hamas deputy chief said Monday his group is ready to resume talks with Egyptian officials in order to reach a prisoner exchange deal with Israel as soon as possible over the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
Moussa Abu Marzouk told The Associated Press in an interview that Hamas "did not close and will not close the door until we release our prisoners from Israeli jails."
Egyptian-brokered talks over a deal that would see Israel release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Schalit broke down last week.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said early this week that Hamas' excessive demands prevented the deal and indicated he would turn the matter over to his successor, Binyamin Netanyahu.
Abu Marzouk blamed Israel for the prisoner swap failure, saying it was trying to break its previous commitments.
"There was an agreement through the Egyptian mediator that Israel releases 450 Palestinian prisoners whose names were submitted by Hamas in exchange for Schalit," Abu Marzouk said. He claimed Israel was trying to change the list of prisoners and wanted to expel some of them from the Palestinian territories.
He added that if Israel changes its mind, then they should go to the Egyptian mediators, and "we are ready for dialogue over this issue."
When asked if Hamas was rushing to conclude the prisoners swap deal before Olmert leave office, Abu Marzouk said Hamas wants the release of Palestinian prisoners "as soon as possible" but sees no difference between Israeli parties' in terms of political goals.
Speaking about the Egyptian-mediated talks with Fatah, Abu Marzouk said a third round would be held soon in Cairo but said no specific date has been set yet.
The reconciliation talks broke down last week without a deal on a national unity government, a key element to rebuilding the Gaza Strip following the IDF's Operation Cast Lead.