Gilad Shalit 298 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal will visit Cairo for talks on a prisoner exchange involving captured IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit and Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails, although the exact date of his arrival was still uncertain, a senior Egyptian official announced Sunday afternoon.
"Mr. Mashaal has an invitation to come to Cairo... The visit will tackle the issue of the prisoner exchange and the situation in the Palestinian and Israeli arena," said Egyptian presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad.
In a related development, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki met Sunday in the Syrian capital Damascus with Mashaal and stressed that Palestinian national unity and reconciliation are the "only way to solve the Palestinian people's problems."
Mottaki praised the agreement between Hamas and Fatah to stabilize the situation in the Palestinian territories and criticized Western policies toward the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
Mashaal told the Iranian press agency IRNA that "all schemes against the Palestinian people to break its will through siege will fail."
He reiterated that "resistance is the only way for the Palestinian people to regain their rights" and rejected pressure on Hamas to leave government, saying the administration was "formed by the will of the Palestinian people and will not abandon its responsibilities."
Mousa Abu-Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that Iran "no doubt provides real support for the Palestinian people at present on the financial, political and moral levels."
On Saturday night, Mottaki met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem to discuss the proposed Palestinian Authority unity government.
Over the weekend, a number of conflicting reports were published about progress in negotiations for a prisoner swap.
On Friday, Al-Hayat reported that Hamas was awaiting Israel's response to the latest deal proposal.
According to that report, the Hamas leadership had withdrawn its demand that concurrent with Shalit's release, Palestinian security prisoners would be immediately released by Israel.
Instead, Hamas was said to be willing to free Shalit, and wait two months for Israel to release some 1000 prisoners.
Al-Hayat claimed that Mashaal was expected to hear Israel's response to the proposal during his meeting with head of Egyptian intelligence Omar Suleiman in Cairo.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official, had denied the report. "There is no official invitation to Cairo. There is no one heading to Cairo now," he had told the Associated Press.