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Hamas: Prisoner swap talks ongoing

Arab-Israel Relations Materials 19 November 2009 16:01 (UTC +04:00)
German mediators are continuing to broker efforts to produce a prisoner swap deal for with the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, senior Hamas leader Usama Al-Muzeini said.
Hamas: Prisoner swap talks ongoing

German mediators are continuing to broker efforts to produce a prisoner swap deal for with the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, senior Hamas leader Usama Al-Muzeini said.

Al-Muzeini, the official in charge of the talks within the Hamas movement, insisted that offering further details could jeopardize the negotiations' success, Maan News Agency reported.

Speaking to Ma'an, Al-Muzeini said talks are "ongoing with German mediation and are overcoming obstacles," adding that, "The movement's [Hamas'] decision was not to give any details so as not to negatively affect the negotiating process."

Highlighting a previous statement, Al-Muzeini remarked, "The delay in accomplishing the goal for three years was due to the media. Because we are dedicated to the prisoners' release, we prefer to keep silent."

After long involvement by Egypt, it emerged in August that Germany was also involved in brokering indirect talks between Israel and Hamas regarding the fate of what would likely be 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, who would be released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Hamas and the other factions that captured Shalit in 2006 are demanding the release of 450 named high-level prisoners including women, children and Palestinian lawmakers, as well as long-term prisoners as well as 550 unnamed Palestinians of the some 10,000 currently being held in Israeli facilities.

Concerning the Hamas refusal to sign an Egyptian proposal for reconciliation with Fatah, Al-Muzeini stressed, "We did not reject it, but there are points that we would like to discuss with the Egyptians, particularly one regarding holding presidential, legislative and Palestinian National Council elections on 28 June. We were surprised that [the document] was changed because the elections will be held on time while the PNC election was taken out from the text."

Al-Muzeini further added that, "The movement had asked for explanations from Egypt but they have refused our demands, compelling us to sign the paper first and then to discuss it."

"Egypt has acted towards us in a punitive way ... we told them that we would like to have explanations which does not mean return to dialogue again," he said.

The senior Hamas leader concluded by saying that, "There are no direct contacts between the movement and the Egyptian leadership but there are indirect contacts that are held through mediators of independent figures."

The Palestinian Legislative Council's deputy speaker Ahmad Bahar, appealed on Monday to the factions currently holding Shalit to hold fast to their original terms.

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