A delegation of European Union Foreign Ministers, followed by a
visit by French President Nicholas Sarkozy within 24 hours, are leading
off a new round of diplomatic activity here in the Egyptian capital
Cairo, as Arab public opinion continues to call for an immediate halt
to hostilities in Gaza.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, says President Mubarak has
sent messages to Israel, via diplomatic channels, urging it to, in his
words "return to the language of reason."
Aboul Gheit also says Egypt is hosting a delegation from the militant
Palestinian Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, to discuss how to
reach a ceasefire with Israel.
He says Egypt has asked Hamas to send a delegation with authority to
negotiate to Cairo to discuss how to achieve a ceasefire and to mediate
some sort of inter-Palestinian reconciliation (with the rival Fatah
faction of President Mahmoud Abbas).
Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has said, on several
occasions, that his group will no longer recognize the legitimacy of
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when his term in office
officially ends on January 9th.
Hamas is also demanding that all six border crossings into Gaza be
opened for a ceasefire to be concluded. Egypt, on the other hand, wants
both the European Union and President Abbas' Fatah faction to control
the crossings before they can reopen.
To further complicate the situation, Damascus-based Islamic Jihad
leader Ramadan Abdallah Challah, insists that such a solution will be
opposed by his group and Hamas, and foreign observers (come to monitor
a truce) will be treated as hostile forces.
He says that anyone contemplating such an (international) solution and
thinking of sending their sons to Gaza as part of an international
force, should be warned that the resistance will consider them an enemy
come to protect Israel.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has
shuttled across the Middle East during the past week to mediate a
ceasefire in Gaza, accused Israel of "not respecting a truce" that was
being negotiated with Hamas. He accused Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert of "not respecting Turkey's role" in the diplomatic mission, as
Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed al-Muallem, on a visit to Ankara,
declared that Damascus had broken off indirect peace talks with Israel,
out of respect for the people of Gaza.
Indirect peace talks with Israel, he says, were supposed to be
conducted in the absence of any Israeli military actions, (as he said
Turkey is aware,) so he said it was normal to cut the talks off when
Israel brutally attacked Gaza .
Arab demonstrators, meanwhile, continued to take to the streets in
various cities, putting further pressure on mediators to reach a
ceasefire. For the second day, demonstrators in Beirut tried to break
through barbed wire to reach the U.S. Embassy, but were turned back by
In the Persian Gulf, Qatar's Emir Hamid ben Khalifa al Thani told al
Jazeera TV that a disputed emergency Arab summit should be held at
week's end if no diplomatic solution to the Gaza crisis is reached