Egypt announces Israel-Hamas truce plan
According to proposal presented by President Mubarak, Israel and Palestinian factions should accept immediate ceasefire for limited period, to be followed by talks on long-term arrangements including end to blockade of Gaza
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak presented the proposal in a brief statement after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
But a senior official in Sarkozy's office said that Egypt had told Israel the two countries could work together to make the border between Egypt and Gaza watertight.
Sarkozy then told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: "You have to say that in these conditions you are ready to accept a ceasefire, which means a withdrawal from Gaza, and you have to do it now", added the official, who asked not to be named.
"Olmert told Sarkozy: 'If Mubarak does that then I will immediately announce a ceasefire and a withdrawal in principle, but I want to open talks with Egypt on the Philadelphi Route (along the border between Egypt and Gaza)'," the official said.
If Olmert makes that announcement, then Sarkozy will make a statement, as president of the UN Security Council, asking the council not to discuss any resolutions, he added.
Mubarak did not say what role Hamas would play in the talks he is proposing. Israel and the Europeans who have been active diplomatically do not talk to the Islamist group.
Mubarak said he was offering the proposal to end the bloodshed in Gaza, where Israeli forces have killed more than 600 people in 11 days of attacks, including at least 42 civilians in an attack on one school on Tuesday.
Sarkozy, who has been on a peacemaking mission in the Middle East for the last 36 hours, said: "I am confident that the Israeli authorities' reaction will make it possible to consider putting an end to put an end to the operation ... in Gaza."
The Egyptian proposal, as read by Mubarak, contained the following points:
At first sight the plan did not appear to meet Israel's demand for agreement on lasting arrangements before a truce starts.
The United States also said on Tuesday that its priority was that any ceasefire should be durable and indefinite, rather than that it be immediate, as Mubarak proposed.
The Egyptian initiative did meet Hamas's main condition for a ceasefire - that Israel and Egypt should end the blockade they have imposed on Gaza since Hamas took control of the impoverished coastal strip in June 2007.
But the Islamist group might seek firmer guarantees that the blockade will end completely.