Sarkozy, back to Egypt
Photo: AFP
Rice, off to New York
Photo: AFP

Sarkozy says truce deal 'not far'

After meeting with Syrian president, french president returns to Egypt to continue push for Hamas-Israel ceasefire. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads off to UN to lobby for a US-backed ceasefire plan in Gaza

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Tuesday a deal to end the Israeli offensive in Gaza was "not far".


"I'm convinced that there are solutions. We are not far from that. What is needed is simply for one of the players to start for things to go in the right direction," he told reporters during a visit to French UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon.


Sarkozy said he was returning to Sharm el-Sheikh to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak because there was "small hope" of such a deal.


Sarkozy's speech confirmed French Prime Minister Francois Fillon's statement earlier Tuesday that a "very narrow" opportunity to get a ceasefire in Gaza is opening up.


Fillon told the French parliament on Tuesday that "there is a path, even if it is a very narrow path, to get a ceasefire on the ground thanks to the position taken by all those involved.


"Sarkozy met with Syrian President Bashar Assad today, and following the meeting, he has decided to return to Sharm al-Sheikh tonight to meet with the Egyptian president."


Sarkozy has been on a whirlwind Mideast tour to push a ceasefire proposal to stop Israel's ground and air offensive on Hamas-ruled Gaza.


'Sustainable truce wanted'

Meanwhile, US State Department officials say Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is traveling to New York Tuesday to meet with Arab ministers and lobby for a US-backed ceasefire plan for Gaza.


Rice will also be meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "The purpose of Rice's trip," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, "is to promote international efforts to bring about a ceasefire in Gaza."


The United States would like to see an immediate cease-fire in Gaza that would hold up over time, McCormack said on Tuesday.


"We would like an immediate ceasefire, absolutely…An immediate ceasefire that is durable, sustainable and not time-limited."


In an interview to the NBC network, Envoy for the Quartet on the Middle East Tony Blair said, "What we are doing is working very hard to get the conditions in place where there can be an immediate ceasefire that's fully respected on both sides, where we can then get proper help to people in Gaza, but do so in a way that also advances Israel's security."


Israel hopes that Rice will manage to spearhead a move outside of the UN that will be acceptable to Israel and receive the Security Council's support.


On Monday Rice met with nine of her European and Middle Eastern counterparts in an attempt to reach an agreement on them move. In UN headquarters it is clear that the United State will now allow a truce resolution that will restore the previous situation in the Gaza Strip.


Israel on its part continued to stress that it will not acknowledge any Security Council resolution that gives legitimacy to Hamas. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has decided not to attend the UN meeting for fear her presence may be viewed as acceptance of the UN's authority.


Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev will represent Israel's stance in the meeting.


Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is slated to meet with US President George Bush on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Gaza. Ban has been critical of Israel's actions since the start of Operation Cast Lead, and has also expressed disappointment with the nations' failure to bring about a truce.


Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 01.06.09, 18:26
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