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Sunday, Aug 17, 2014

World

Israelis, Palestinians set to resume Cairo talks

AFP | Sunday, Aug 17, 2014

Palestinian women walk between buildings destroyed during fighting between Hamas militants and Israel in the Al-Shaas neighbourhood, in the north of the Gaza Strip.

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories - Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were poised to resume indirect talks Sunday with Egyptian mediators on reaching a more permanent ceasefire before the current truce expires.

The Egyptian government persuaded both sides late Wednesday to adhere to a new five-day ceasefire, extending an earlier three-day agreement in order to allow more time to thrash out a longer-term truce.

It got off to a rocky start, with Palestinian rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli air strikes, but Saturday marked a sixth day of quiet following more than a month of fighting that has killed at least 1,980 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams were expected back in Cairo for fresh talks, which the Palestinians said would begin on Sunday, after consulting their political leaders over the weekend.

The talks are expected to resume on the basis of an Egyptian proposal, seen by AFP, which calls for a lasting ceasefire beyond Monday midnight, and new talks on the thorniest issues, including demands for a seaport and airport in Gaza, to begin in a month's time.

Negotiations about handing over the remains of two Israeli soldiers in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails would also be postponed, according to the document.

A buffer zone along Gaza's border with Israel would be gradually reduced and guarded by Palestinian Authority security teams.

The European Union welcomed the ceasefire in Gaza and said it was ready to expand a police mission in Rafah, on the border with Egypt, and train Palestinian Authority customs personnel and police for redeployment in Gaza.

It said EU police would monitor the transit of supplies needed for Gaza reconstruction and try to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the territory.

A mission of 70 European police officers was set up at the crossing point in 2005, tasked with monitoring movements of people, goods and vehicles at Gaza's only window to the outside world that bypasses Israel.

But it was suspended two years later after Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip.

"A return to the status quo prior to the latest conflict is not an option," said the EU Council on Friday following a foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.

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