Egyptian FM says demilitarizing Gaza not for discussion now

Egyptian FM says demilitarizing Gaza not for discussion now

Sameh Shukri says Cairo is focused on promoting a lasting ceasefire, but hopes for international push for accord

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri (photo credit: YouTube screen capture)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri (photo credit: YouTube screen capture)

Egypt is focused on promoting efforts to ensure this summer’s Gaza conflict does not repeat itself, but isn’t looking to immediately demilitarize the Strip, Egypt’s foreign minister said in an interview published Monday.

“We have succeeded in stabilizing the ceasefire during negotiations, and we hope to continue our efforts to reach an agreement that will guarantee” that there won’t be a repeat of the violence, Sameh Shukri told the Arabic daily Al-Hayat.

He added, however, that demilitarization of the Hamas-ruled enclave, one of Israel’s key goals in negotiations, is a matter that should be taken up during negotiations on a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“[I] hope the events in Gaza will move the international community to secure a permanent settlement and promote resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

Since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in late August ended seven weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the sides have met once in Cairo and set an end of October date for further negotiations in hopes of reaching a lasting accord.

Numerous Palestinian, Israeli and international leaders, including the US and Egypt, have expressed hopes that the Gaza ceasefire talks could be used as a pretext for resuming stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority aimed at establishing an independent Palestinian state.

However, the chances for renewed peace talks may have taken a hit last week when Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas announced a breakthrough in reconciliation talks that saw Hamas agree to cede administrative control of the Gaza Strip to a unity government agreed upon by the sides in March. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that he will not negotiate with a Palestinian Authority unity government backed by Hamas.

Reconstruction efforts could get a boost from the agreement, though, as a Palestinian official told The Times of Israel on Sunday that Hamas also agreed to allow security forces loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas to deploy along the borders and at crossings.

This was a key demand by Egypt for opening up the Rafah crossing to allow vital building supplies into the Gaza Strip.

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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