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Report: Israel, Egypt to discuss new Gaza ceasefire
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15:57, April 21, 2009

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Scheduled talks between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and visiting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Wednesday will focus on instituting another ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, local daily The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.

Suleiman, who is in charge of the Israel issue in the Egyptian cabinet, will travel to Israel on Wednesday to held talks with Barak. He will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, according to the report.

The talks will focus on a wide range of issues, including efforts to reach a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israeli defense officials were quoted as saying.

Barak and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i have been supporters of a new ceasefire with Hamas. Barak spearheaded the last ceasefire, which expired in December 2008, a week before Israel launched the large-scale Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza.

Barak believes that a truce in Gaza could lay the ground for progress in the diplomatic track with the Palestinian National Authority.

"They believe that there needs to be an official and accepted arrangement in Gaza," one Israeli defense official explained.

Referring to the relative quiet on the Gaza front over the past month, Israeli defense officials said that Hamas was busy rebuilding its military capabilities, which were severely damaged during Israel's 22-day massive offensive against Hamas.

In addition to a new Gaza ceasefire, Suleiman was mostly coming"to listen" to the new Israeli government's plans for the Palestinian diplomatic track as well as the Gilad Shalit negotiations, which Suleiman has been personally mediating since the Israeli soldier was abducted outside Gaza in June 2006, officials said.

During his visit to Israel, Suleiman will also try to gauge Israeli government's readiness to carry out a prisoner swap with Hamas in exchange for Shalit, said the report.


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