Qatari prime minister says hostage-truce talks making progress ‘to some extent’

Al-Thani, who also serves as foreign minister, says meetings held with Hamas in attempt to ‘bridge the gap,’ says solution ‘must be based on compromises between the two parties’

Protesters gather during an anti-government rally calling for early elections and a hostage deal, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 18, 2024 (Menahem Kahana / AFP)
Protesters gather during an anti-government rally calling for early elections and a hostage deal, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 18, 2024 (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

Qatar’s prime minister said on Friday that progress had been made “to some extent” in negotiations which his country is mediating in an attempt to secure a potential hostage and ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.

“We have continued our efforts without interruption over the last few days,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told a joint news conference in Madrid with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares. Al-Thani also serves as Qatar’s foreign minister.

Qatar, with the United States and Egypt, has been engaged in months of negotiations over details for a truce in Gaza and the release of hostages Hamas is holding there.

Hamas kidnapped 251 people on October 7, when thousands of terrorists led by the group stormed southern Israel to kill some 1,200 people, sparking the war in Gaza. It is believed that 116 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza, though dozens are believed dead.

“There have been several meetings with the Hamas leadership to try to bridge the gap between the two parties and reach an agreement that will lead to a ceasefire and the release of the Israeli hostages” being held in Gaza, al-Thani said Friday, noting that “there has been progress to some extent in the situation.”

“There cannot be one party to the conflict adopting the vision of the other party,” he said. The solution “must be based on compromises between the two parties.”

Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, arrives at the plenary session of the Summit on peace in Ukraine, at the luxury Burgenstock resort, near Lucerne, Switzerland, June 15, 2024. (Urs Flueeler / Pool / AFP)

“Efforts are continuing, but so far we have not reached a formula that we feel is the most appropriate and closest to what has been presented,” said the Qatari prime minister.

“As soon as this is done, we will communicate with the Israeli side to try to bridge the gap and reach an agreement as quickly as possible,” he added.

The latest round of talks is based on a plan US President Joe Biden laid out on May 31, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal from “major population centers” in Gaza and a ceasefire for six weeks, which could then be extended if negotiators need more time to seek a permanent deal.

Hamas has demanded that Israel commit to a permanent ceasefire and full withdrawal from the Strip, conditions which Israel considers a nonstarter.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the Hamas response to the proposal included some changes that were impractical and suggested the terror group will be responsible for prolonging the war if it sticks to its positions.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Middle East, from the State Dining Room of the White House, May 31, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Some Israeli analysts have noted that with the looming threat of war with Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group on Israel’s northern border, Israel may have to end the Gaza conflict sooner than it would want.

However, Channel 12 on Friday cited an unnamed Israeli diplomatic source as saying that Hamas would be wrong to think that Israel would pull out of Gaza without getting anything in return.

“The Israel Defense Force will stop the fighting only [as part of] an agreement,” the source was quoted as saying.

“Sinwar is wrong — Israel will continue operating militarily in Gaza, and powerfully,” said the source, referring to Hamas’s military chief in the Strip.

The war in Gaza has been ongoing for over eight months since October 7 when Hamas launched the unprecedented attack on Israel.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 37,400 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The toll, which cannot be verified as it does not differentiate between terrorists and civilians, includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle.

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