Egypt still mediating talks on a possible Schalit deal, says Israeli official.
By GREER FAY CASHMAN, AP
Although the 30th anniversary of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was treated in a much more low key fashion in Egypt than it was in Israel, President Shimon Peres nonetheless felt the need to call Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to offer his congratulations.
Referring to Mubarak as "my dear friend," Peres expressed deep appreciation for Mubarak's leadership and his efforts towards peace and stability. Mubarak, said Peres, had for years been like a solid rock that could not be moved by swirling waters, and every Israeli leader had profound respect for him.
Acknowledging that the 30 years had been far from perfect, Peres said that the situation had been far preferable to ongoing war. Peres recalled Mubarak's declaration that he had no desire to needlessly endanger his children and his soldiers.
Mubarak assured Peres that he had no intention of changing his policy with regard to peace with Israel, and that anyone who sought war had no real understanding of its implications. Egypt, he added, would continue to do all in its power to facilitate the release of Gilad Schalit.
Peres updated Mubarak on the coalition agreements and their significance, and said the new government would remain committed to seeking peace in the region.
Meanwhile, Egypt is still mediating talks between Israel and Hamas on a prisoner swap that would include Schalit, an Egyptian government official said Thursday.
Both Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers said earlier this week that talks aimed at freeing Schalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners were not over, despite the public breakdown last week of the indirect, Egyptian-mediated contacts.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said last week that excessive demands by Hamas had prevented a deal and indicated he would turn the matter over to his successor, Binyamin Netanyahu.
Later, Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev said attempts to win the release of Schalit had not stopped. The 22-year-old sergeant has been held by Hamas in Gaza since June 2006.
Olmert had offered to free 320 prisoners of the 450 Hamas was demanding. The group's Syria-based deputy leader, Mousa Abu Marzouk, said on Monday that Israel was trying to change the list of prisoners and wanted to expel some of them from the Palestinian territories.
"Schalit will not see the light of day until our prisoners see it," a Syria-based Hamas leader, Ali Baraka, said on Wednesday, according to Hamas's Web site.
'There are ongoing communications and discussions conducted by the Egyptian mediators which have not been cut off and we hope that the Israelis will respond to our requests," he said.
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