'Israel, Hamas agree to discuss Schalit'

Al Hayat report quotes unnamed Egyptian official; Amos Gilad arrives in Cairo for talks.

amos gilad 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
amos gilad 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel and Hamas have agreed to renew negotiations for the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, London-based Arab newspaper Al Hayat reported Friday morning. An unnamed Egyptian official told the paper that Cairo wants to understand the new Israeli government's position on a prisoner swap. "So far, the Israeli government has not given any offer that we can work with," the source said. He said that much progress had been made with the previous government and that it would be a shame to start again from scratch. "The agreement to renew talks is a positive step, but we are waiting to hear the Israeli position," he said. The Jerusalem Post could not independently verify the Al Hayat report. Amos Gilad, the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-military bureau chief, arrived in Cairo on Thursday for a brief visit during which he is to conduct talks with Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on the efforts to reach a deal with Hamas, Arab media outlets said. Recent reports had claimed that Israel and Hamas were about to renew talks on Schalit's release, though Hamas on Wednesday denied receiving any official announcement from Egypt on the topic. Meanwhile, Group of Eight leaders have called for the immediate release of Schalit. In a statement issued Thursday at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, the leaders also called for the immediate opening of Gaza crossings to allow humanitarian aid, goods and people in and out of the territory, while respecting Israel's security. The countries stressed that "a just, lasting and global peace in the Middle East remains crucial for the international community", reiterated their support for the "two-state solution" which would allow Israel to "live in peace and safety" and create "a Palestinian state, in which the Palestinian people can make their own decisions." The statement went on to say that the nations urged Israel and the Palestinians to "quickly resume direct negotiations on all open questions, in line with the Road Map, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Madrid principles. "The G8 countries ask the two parties to fulfill their obligations included in the Road Map including the clear rejection of violence, terrorism and instigation to terrorism and a complete freeze on settlement activities including their 'natural growth'." They also called on Arab states to start normalizing relations with Israel and to provide political and economic support to the Palestinian Authority, emphasizing the need to restore Palestinian unity based on the Quartet principles of renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and abiding by previous agreements.