Ahmed Aboul Gheit
Photo: AFP

Egyptian FM: Israel must elasticize stand on Shalit deal

Cairo's Ahmed Aboul Gheit urges Jerusalem to agree to Hamas demands, release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldier

Egypt's foreign minister urged Israel on Friday to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier captured in 2006.


Egypt has been mediating a prisoner swap and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Israel needs to show flexibility.


A year ago, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar accused Israel of going back on a promise to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas-allied militants in a cross-border raid near the Gaza border in 2006.


"If you want a soldier, if you need a certain commodity and you are ready to pay in that commodity then pay for the sake of the soldier – give the Palestinians what they are after," Aboul Gheit said in an interview with the Associated Press on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.


"I think what they are after (is) 1,000 prisoners that would be exchagned for the sake of the soldier Shalit," he said.


"I would encourage people to do (it)," Aboul Gheit said. "Why not? What is wrong? Give them the thousand and take your soldiers and give him back to his family and his people and let the family enjoy having him back."


The Egyptian minister said a prisoner swap could also lead to an opening of border crossings into Gaza.


"The problem is the Israelis are insisting there will not be a permanent opening of the crossings unless Shalit is released," Aboul Gheit said.


Israel has severely restricted the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza since Hamas gunmen seized control of the strip in 2007.


"What we are telling the Israelis," Aboul Gheit said, "(is) make the exchange and facilitate for yourself and for the Palestinians."


Egypt is also trying to mediate a power-sharing deal between Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank.


A unity deal is seen as key to reaching an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and to rebuilding Gaza after Israel's winter war against Hamas in December and January.


"Eventually, we're sure that we will manage to bring the Palestinians together," Aboul Gheit said.  


פרסום ראשון: 09.26.09, 08:16
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