Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said here Thursday that Egypt was still endeavoring to reach a swap deal that could lead to the release of hundreds of Palestinians and the captured Israeli soldier.
This deal has not been reached so far, Abul Gheit said at a joint press conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, who arrived here on Wednesday night for the first visit since she assumed her post in May.
Abul Gheit denied media reports that the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was hidden somewhere in Egypt, saying, "He is not in Egypt."
Abul Gheit said on Tuesday after a meeting with EU envoy for the Middle East Marc Otte that a deal between the Palestinians and Israel on exchanging prisoners could happen "within hours or days".
Shalit was seized by three Palestinian militant groups in a deadly attack on an Israeli army post near Gaza border on June 25, demanding the Jewish state release Palestinian women, minors and some 1,000 other prisoners jailed in Israeli prisons.
Three days after Shalit's capture, Israel launched a major offensive on the Gaza Strip to bring Shalit home and stop Palestinian rocket attacks.
For her part, Beckett said she was concerned over the suffering of the Palestinian and Israeli citizens alike.
Negotiation was the only way to push forward the stalled Mideast peace process, said Beckett, adding that the Palestinian- Israeli conflict was an obstacle to achieving stability in the region.
Israel should act in line with the international law and do its best to bring an end to the citizens' sufferings, Beckett said.
She said Britain was keen to see the international Quartet continuing its work in this respect to find a sustainable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The Quartet -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- sponsors the peace process in the Middle East.