Senior Israeli officials and representatives of the armed Palestinian groups holding IDF soldier Gilad Shalit may soon meet in Cairo in the framework of the ongoing negotiations on a prisoner exchange deal, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat quoted Palestinian sources as saying on Friday.
"The expected talks between the factions holding Shalit captive and the Israeli officials will be held behind closed doors so the sides can finally resolve the issue," one of the Palestinian sources told the newspaper.
Hamas Deputy Politburo Chief Moussa Abu Marzouk told Asharq Al-Awsat following the recent talks the Islamist group held with Egyptian mediator Omar Suleiman that "we are taking the feelings of the prisoners' families into consideration and are therefore not commenting publically on the matter. We will immediately make an announcement upon reaching an honorable agreement."
According to the Palestinian sources, Suleiman asked the Hamas representatives to learn from Hizbullah's experience in conducting negotiations with Israel and keep the details of the burgeoning prisoner swap deal confidential.
Abu Marzouk said the reopening of the Rafah crossing was being delayed "because each party that signed the crossings agreement in 2005 (Israel, Palestinian Authority and the European Union) has its own agenda.
"Israel has conditioned the reopening of Rafah on Shalit's return, the PA is demanding to regain control over Gaza as a prerequisite and the Europeans want to supervise over the crossing.
"These conditions have complicated matters and place a heavy burden on the Egyptians, who have vowed to make every effort to reach a solution and reopen Rafah," he said.