Israel-Hamas talks on prisoner exchange fail

Israel Materials 17 March 2009 10:43 (UTC +04:00)

Talks between Israel and Hamas in Cairo over a prisoner exchange failed to reach an agreement, Israeli media reports said.

The office of outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said late Monday that the talks collapsed because Hamas was making excessive demands and hardened its stance, reported dpa.

The Israeli envoys, domestic security chief Yuval Diskin and diplomat Ofer Dekel, said Hamas has also backed away from agreements that had already been reached in the talks, according to the Haaretz newspaper.

On Monday night, both Diskin and Dekel departed Cairo after two days of indirect negotiations.

Olmert, who has been seeking to obtain the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit before he leaves office, plans to debate how to proceed at a cabinet meeting Tuesday, the online news site Ynet reported, citing high-ranking Olmert aides. No vote was expected, they were quoted as saying.

Hamas has demanded that hundreds of Palestinian prisoners be released in return for Shalit. A sticking point has been Israel's demand that a few dozen Palestinian prisoners who took part in the planning or execution of attacks not be allowed to return to Palestinian territory but go abroad instead.

It was unclear whether further talks under Egyptian mediation would take place.

Hamas disputed Israel's contention that it had hardened its position in the negotiations, but said it would strike no names from its list of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners it wants released or make concessions about sending some abroad.

A Hamas leader told Haaretz in Egypt that the talks made no progress.

Shalit was captured in June 2006 by members of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Shalit's parents erected a protest tent a week ago in front of Olmert's house to press for their son's release.