Israeli-Palestinian crisis: Egypt calls for cease-fire; Rice wants talks

2008-03-05 00:00

CAIRO — Egypt called yesterday for a cease-fire between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza, but the United States said only negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority could lead to lasting peace.

In talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Cairo, differences also appeared in Egypt’s and the U.S.’s approach to Hamas and to the way Israel has conducted its recent offensive in Gaza, where Israeli forces have killed at least 123 Palestinians, many of them civilians.

But the two sides did agree that Hamas should stop its rocket attacks on Israel and end other military activities.

Rice arrived in the region yesterday to try to persuade Israelis and Palestinians to quickly resume U.S.-sponsored peace talks suspended over the Israeli offensive.

She stopped in Egypt for a few hours for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the fighting.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told a joint news conference: “We are trying to reach a cease-fire and a period of calm … We are trying to persuade the Israelis not to use this excessive force and this disproportionality in the use of force. That must stop.”

Rice said Hamas should end its rocket attacks on Israel, while Israel had the right to defend itself, but should take account of the effects its attacks might have on Palestinian civilians and on the prospects for peace talks.

Hamas has offered a long-term truce with Israel, saying it would stop its rocket attacks in exchange for an end to Israeli attacks on Hamas personnel and an end to the long blockade of Gaza, which has continued with little relief since last June.

Rice said the U.S. was sensitive to the sufferings of Palestinians in Gaza. But she added: “It is just our very strong view that the only way that we will in the long term be able to provide for peace and dignity for the Palestinian people and for peace and security for the Israeli people is if we establish two states living side by side.”

“That can only be done through negotiations … So, yes, we will work for the resumption of the negotiations as quickly as possible,” she added.

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