European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana says he is increasingly hopeful that Israel and Hamas can strike a lasting cease-fire.
Solana said the objective of US envoy George Mitchell and other international mediators is to support Egyptian efforts to get both Israel and the fundamentalist group to strike an agreement by next week. The next goal would be to persuade the rival Palestinian factions to agree on a joint government, he explained.
Solana expressed hope that Hamas, which controls Gaza, will reconcile with the Fatah faction led by President Authority Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas threw the more moderate Fatah out of Gaza in June 2007 coup.
Solana was speaking at a European Parliament conference on Thursday after returning from a Mideast tour.