Middle East News
Abbas calls on Hamas to accept ceasefire initiative (1st Lead)
Jan 10, 2009, 11:08 GMT
Cairo - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met in Cairo Saturday with Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak as part of diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip after 15 days of Israeli attacks which have left over 800 dead and thousands wounded.
A delegation from Hamas was expected later Saturday to continue discussion with Egyptian officials, while German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also having talks in Cairo.
Abbas expressed his strong backing for the Egyptian-French initiative of last week calling for a cessation of violence, allowing aid to reach civilians, and for the Israelis and Palestinians to take steps to make sure another conflict does not erupt, including the possibility of international peacekeeping forces.
The Palestinian leader backed the plan, saying at a press conference after his talks with Mubarak, 'We need an international presence to protect the people in the Gaza Strip and not just international observers on the border with Egypt.'
Abbas also called on Hamas to accept the Egyptian initiative as 'there is no time for hesitation.'
Abbas said the initiative is the main mechanism by which Thursday's UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip could be put into action.
He noted that so far the Security Council resolution unfortunately had not yet had any immediate impact.
'But the Egyptian initiative is the mechanism for the resolution to materialize and to be activated so that Israeli aggression would be halted,' Abbas said, describing Cairo's call as a 'life-saving' effort which came at 'the right time.'
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier meanwhile met with Mubarak as Germany joined in the ceasefire efforts.
Steinmeier told reporters that while the UN Security Council resolution passed Thursday night was a step in the right direction, full international cooperation was required to achieve a ceasefire on the ground.
'The ongoing status and the humanitarian situation in Gaza demand that we and all our European and international partners work together to create the conditions necessary for an immediate, effective and permanent halt of attacks,' Steinmeier said after meeting Mubarak.
Steinmeier was also expected to meet with Abbas, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit and Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa before going on to Israel to meet with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.