Egypt rules out foreign force on its land, Turkish president calls Bush
Hurriyet DN Online with wires
Egypt ruled out on Saturday allowing international troops to deploy on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza as part of a possible ceasefire deal between Israel and the Hamas movement which runs Gaza. Turkish president called his U.S. counterpart on the phone to discuss the Gaza crisis. (UPDATED)
"Nobody is talking about international troops (in Egypt). We are talking about arrangements and measures. There will be no international troops of any kind on the Egyptian side," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was quoted by Reuters as telling a news conference.
Visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who runs the West Bank but not Gaza, supported the Egyptian position, saying an international force should not deploy even on the border.
Syria-based Palestinian militant groups including Hamas on Saturday rejected deploying international observers or troops in Gaza, AP reported.
A statement issued by the groups after a meeting attended by Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal also rejected any security arrangement that "infringes on the right of resistance against Israeli occupation."
The statement comes hours after Abbas called on Hamas, which controls Gaza, to reach an agreement to end the fighting.
ABBAS MEETS MUBARAK
Abbas met his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak in Cairo and discussed the possible deployment of international forces along the Gaza-Egypt border under any ceasefire deal.
A senior official of Hamas repeated the position of the Islamist movement. "We cannot accept international forces in the Gaza Strip because the presence of international forces would be for the protection of the Israelis, and not the protection of the Palestinian people," Mohammed Nazzal of Hamas told Al Jazeera.
Hamas wants any ceasefire deal to include the ending of Israel's crippling economic blockade of the Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the territory, from which Israel withdrew in 2005 after a 38-year occupation.
European and Israeli diplomats have said the international force is part of the package that mediators are trying to put together to end the last two weeks of violence between Israel and Hamas. At least 800 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have been killed in the fighting.
Israel's main demand is for a new mechanism to prevent Hamas receiving weapons smuggled through tunnels under the 15 km (nine miles) of border between Egypt and Gaza.
Diplomats have also suggested that international forces could supervise the operation of the border crossings and monitor a truce between Israel and Hamas.
A Hamas delegation, including for the first time senior officials from Gaza as well as members of the Islamists Damascus-based leadership in exile, was also due to hold talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo.
Abbas pressed Hamas to accept the Egyptian plan "without hesitation," saying after talks with Mubarak that "this situation does not allow us to lose time.
"Whoever does not accept (the plan) will be responsible for the continuing aggression and for bloodshed," he said.
Mubarak’s plan, unveiled on Tuesday, calls for an immediate truce for a specified period, opening Gaza’s border crossings, preventing arms smuggling and a call for Palestinians to resume reconciliation talks.
TURKISH PRES CALLS BUSH
Gul and Bush discussed short and long-term aspects of the situation in Gaza, officials said.
The two presidents talked about the implementation of ceasefire in Gaza, immediate solution to humanitarian tragedy and post-ceasefire arrangements in the region, officials added.
The United States, which abstained in the U.N. vote, has offered further public support for Israel's military goals.
"This situation will not improve until Hamas stops lobbing rockets into Israel," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel was quoted by Reuters as saying on Saturday.
He said President George W. Bush had expressed concern to Olmert about the humanitarian situation and the loss of civilian lives during the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip.
Egemen Bagis, Turkey's state minister and new chief negotiator for EU talks, said late Friday his country was doing its best to ensure an urgent ceasefire in Gaza.
|10 Ocak 2009|