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US: Hostage deal talks moving in “good direction”

After talks about a possible new ceasefire in the Gaza war and the release of more hostages, the US government expressed cautious optimism.

“We cannot yet speak about an imminent agreement, but based on the discussions we had over the weekend and in recent days, we feel that it is moving in a good direction,” said the National Security Council spokesman on the US. John Kirby, yesterday in Washington. But there is still a lot to do.

Blinken sees “true hope”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was also hopeful: “Very important and very productive work has been done. And there is real hope for the future,” Blinken told reporters yesterday. He had already spoken with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani in Washington.

Hamas “will have to make its own decisions,” Blinken continued. “I can only tell you that there is a good, strong agreement between the countries involved, that this is a good, strong proposal.” Over the weekend, representatives from the US, Israel, Egypt and Qatar discussed in Paris. Those involved wanted to continue discussions this week.

Hamas should be given a framework

A possible framework for an agreement should be sent to Hamas. Qatari Prime Minister Al Thani said at an event in Washington yesterday that “good progress” had been made in the negotiations. The various parties hope to “transmit this proposal to Hamas and have it participate positively and constructively in the process.”

The Palestinian organization made “a clear demand” for a “permanent ceasefire before negotiations”, Al Thani added. The current proposal “could lead to a permanent ceasefire in the future.”

“Talking about a complete and comprehensive ceasefire”

However, it is unclear whether the Islamic organization has yet received Qatar's draft. “We are mainly talking about a complete and comprehensive ceasefire, not a temporary ceasefire,” Taher al-Nunu, a senior Hamas official, told AFP. Once the fighting stops, “the remaining details can be discussed”, including the release of the hostages.

Qatar has played a leading mediation role since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas. Al Thani confirmed that meetings with CIA chief Bill Burns and senior Israeli and Egyptian security officials resulted in a draft multi-phase ceasefire. Women and children taken hostage by Hamas would be released first.