French FM calls for 'urgent' truce in Gaza
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called Saturday for an "urgent" truce in Gaza and renewed support for an Egyptian initiative accepted by Israel but spurned by its Hamas foes.
Fabius issued the call at a Cairo press conference after talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is rallying international support for Cairo's ceasefire proposal while isolating Hamas.
The government of Sisi, a former army chief elected after ousting an Islamist president last year, has accused the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which runs Gaza of supporting militants on its own territory and has balked at giving in to their ceasefire demands.
"The ceasefire is an urgent imperative," said Fabius, as the death toll mounted to 318 Palestinians and two Israelis in the 12-day Gaza conflict which Israel's military launched with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket fire by Hamas militants.
The French government "fully" back Egypt's proposal, Fabius reiterated.
The truce plan, which Egypt had proposed take effect last Tuesday, calls for a ceasefire followed by indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas.
But Hamas insists on negotiating key demands such as a guarantee to lift the blockade on Gaza's border crossings before it halts its rocket fire.
"The absolute priority is a ceasefire, but it must guarantee a lasting truce," Fabius said, adding that it should take into account "Israel's security" and Palestinian demands.
The foreign minister said he would meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night, following a stopover in Amman.
Fabius has said that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the West Bank leader supported by Sisi, asked for French help in lobbying Qatar and Turkey, which have good ties with Hamas, to pressure the militants.
Egypt has rejected Hamas demands to involve Turkey and Qatar -- both regional rivals to the new government in Cairo -- in the ceasefire efforts, Palestinian officials said.
"We are having a series of contacts today with all those who can influence that, notably Qataris and Turks," Fabius told reporters.
On Friday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said his government's proposal still stood and had the backing of the international community and the Arab League.
© 2014 AFP