Egypt FM: Deal to end hunger strike 'within days'

Egypt, Jordan FMs working on the sidelines to end Palestinian prisoners' strike; Egypt to resume gas exports to Jordan.

Egyptian FM Mohamed Amr_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Egyptian FM Mohamed Amr_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said Monday that a deal to end the hunger strike of some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails is coming "within days," CNN in Arabic reported.
Speaking alongside his Jordanian counterpart in Amman, Amr said there were "a number of Egyptian delegates in Geneva" working for the sake of the Palestinian prisoners, who began their strike on April 17 to demand better conditions including more family visits and an end to the use of extended solitary confinement.
Egypt is also working through diplomatic channels at the United Nations General Assembly in order to find support for an Egypt-brokered deal, Amr added.
Cairo has played an important role in mediating between Israel and the Palestinians on the issue of prisoners, after last year Egypt helped to broker a deal between Hamas and Israel to exchange over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Schalit.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said that Jordan was doing its part by putting pressure on Jerusalem to solve the crisis, adding that 16 of the prisoners on strike hold Jordanian citizenship.
Palestinian officials confirmed that Egypt had drafted an agreement in Cairo with representatives of the Palestinian prisoners, and that inmates would meet during the day to sign off on the deal.
But later they said that talks in Ashkelon jail, south of Tel Aviv, between senior prisoners and Israeli authorities had hit a snag, and an Egyptian mediator would try to break the deadlock. Israel's Prisons Service declined comment.
The officials said Israeli authorities had balked at the agreement's call for the release of any inmate whose detention term, usually a six-month period that can be renewed by a military court, has ended.
But they said Israel had agreed under the deal to renew family visits for prisoners from the Gaza Strip and end the solitary confinement of 19 inmates.
Amr says Egypt will resume gas exports to Jordan
Egypt will resume exporting natural gas to Jordan after a months-long hiatus caused by bombing attacks on the northern Sinai pipeline, Amr also announced during the press conference on Monday.
The Egyptian foreign minister said Cairo is seeking to increase the amount of gas it pumped to Jordan from 1000 million cubic meters to 150 cubic meters.
Terrorists exploiting the sensitive security situation in the Sinai peninsula since the overthrow of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak bombed the pipeline at least 14 times in the past year, the principle reason that Cairo was unable to deliver its export of natural gas to the Hashemite Kingdom, Amr explained.
Since Mubarak's ouster, Cairo has deployed more troops in the peninsula with Israel's compliance in order to crack down on illegal arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip and to prevent the area from become more of a hotbed for terrorist activities.
Despite fuel shortages in Egypt and anger amongst Egyptians over Cairo's longstanding gas deal with Israel, which saw Jerusalem buy gas at below-market prices, the North African country's delivery of gas to Jordan has not drawn the ire of most Egyptians, and Amr stressed the importance of resuming the transfer of natural gas to the Hashemite Kingdom.
Jordanian officials confirmed earlier that gas imports from Egypt had decreased since 2009, when Egypt exported upwards of 300 million cubic meters of gas, a number which dropped to just 78 million cubic meters in 2011, according to the CNN report.
Reuters contributed to this report