'Schalit talks to resume in coming days'

Hadas reportedly succeeds in restarting from where talks left of; Peres: Talks with PA, Arab world "soon."

peres and mubarak 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
peres and mubarak 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Egyptian-mediated prisoner swap negotiations with Hamas to secure the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit will resume in the next few days, Channel 10 reported Tuesday, quoting Cairo sources. According to the report, Hagai Hadas, who was recently appointed special envoy to the talks by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, had succeeded in getting the negotiations restarted from the point they left off. In the previous round of discussions, which concluded in the final days of the Olmert government, Israel had agreed to free 350 prisoners on the Hamas list, but the two sides were stuck on 125 more inmates that the terror group was demanding. Meanwhile, Israel Radio cited sources close to President Shimon Peres as saying Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will begin in the near future, together with parallel negotiations with the Arab world. These negotiations and the possibility of a regional peace initiative, along with the Iranian issue and Schalit's fate, were the main issues during Peres's meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, their second since October. Following his session with Mubarak, Peres told reporters that Iran had split the Arab world, and that a number of Arab countries, such as Egypt, didn't want to see Iranian hegemony. Instead, he said, "they seriously want regional peace. They see Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas as a real danger to their situations. President Mubarak sees the situation as an opportunity." Mubarak, in a press conference with Peres before their meeting, called on Israel to halt settlement construction, commit itself to a policy of non-expansion of settlements and enter into negotiations with the Palestinians. Peres told Mubarak that Netanyahu supported the two-state solution in principle, and had no intention of building new settlements or expropriating additional land for existing settlements. Israel Radio, however, quoted Peres aides as saying that during their meeting the president told Mubarak the settlements have created a new situation on the ground, and that "it is impossible to put eggs back after their shells have been broken." Both Mubarak and Peres emphasized that there was a good opportunity now for progress to be made. "We cannot miss this opportunity. The differences between us are not that great that they cannot be overcome," Peres said. "Israel has no intention to rule over the Palestinian people. We have no intention to confiscate land, and we have no intention to build new settlements," he said. He did not address the issue of building inside existing settlements. Mubarak, meanwhile, claimed Schalit was alive and in good condition, repeating what he said in October, just prior to Peres's last visit to Egypt. Mubarak said he hoped the issue would be resolved soon. "Communications are ongoing. Schalit is in good condition. I hope that in the coming period, not in a long time, the Schalit issue will be closed," he said. Last October, Mubarak was quoted by the Egyptian state-run news Agency MENA as saying in an interview that Schalit was in good health, and that Hamas would not harm him. "Under no circumstances should he be mistreated," he said at the time. "Palestinians are not stupid. They must seriously consider what the consequences would be if they kill him." The public committee working for Schalit's release issued a statement saying that Mubarak's comments "raise hopes." At the same time, the committee said it had been filled with hope numerous times over the last three years, but was still waiting "to receive a real sign of life from Gilad, on the way to his quick release." Peres's military aide, Brig.-Gen. Hasson Hasson, contacted the Schalit family after the meeting and relayed Mubarak's comments. Greer Fay Cashman and AP contributed to this report