Egypt seeks lasting truce at international Gaza summit

18th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

The meeting takes place on the day that Israel unilaterally began a ceasefire after a 22-day offensive against the impoverished Hamas-run enclave.

Cairo -- Egypt is hosting an international summit on Sunday attended by several European leaders and UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, to seek a lasting truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The meeting takes place on the day that Israel unilaterally began a ceasefire after a 22-day offensive against the impoverished Hamas-run enclave.

More than 1,200 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched the operation on December 27 in a move to halt rocket fire on southern Israel.

Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Jordan will be represented at the meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, an Egyptian government official, who requested anonymity, told AFP on Saturday.

In Paris, the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he will co-chair the summit along with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak, who has sought to broker an end to the fighting under a truce plan.

The respective offices of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose country has played a mediation role in the conflict, said they would attend.

Merkel and Sarkozy both said they will go to Israel after the meeting to visit Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In London, Downing Street declined to confirm that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown would be among the participants in Sharm el-Sheikh.

But the Italian government said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will attend the summit before heading to Israel for talks with Israeli authorities.

Ban Ki-moon, who is on a tour of the region to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, also confirmed his participation.

"Tomorrow, I go to Damascus, Syria and then to Sharm el-Sheikh to attend a summit meeting to be convened by President Mubarak of Egypt on the Gaza situation," he told a press conference in Beirut.

He condemned as "outrageous" the bombing by the Israeli military of a UN-run school in the Gaza Strip in which two people were killed.

The Egyptian official said Jordan would be represented by King Abdullah II.

A Turkish government official said President Abdullah Gul will take part, although the invitation was extended to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is unable to go due a previously scheduled visit to Brussels.

Diplomatic sources said earlier that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was invited but would not attend as he would instead hold talks with Mubarak in Cairo late Saturday.

After the meeting, Mubarak is to travel to Kuwait on Monday for an Arab summit on the Gaza crisis that is expected to highlight divisions between participating states over how to end the conflict.

Mubarak last week presented a three-point proposal to end Israel's offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The initiative called for an immediate ceasefire and allowing humanitarian aid into the impoverished enclave as well as ending arms smuggling between Egypt and Gaza.

The Egyptian leader on Saturday again called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza, as Hamas vowed to fight on if its terms for a truce were not met.

Mubarak said Egypt "will continue its efforts as soon as there is a ceasefire to restore the truce and lift the blockade" imposed by Israel on crossing points into Gaza.

Egypt brokered a six months truce between Israel Hamas, which expired last month.

Alain Navarro /AFP/Expatica

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