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Qatar to host Gaza ceasefire talks with Abbas and U.N. chief

Source: Reuters - Sun, 20 Jul 2014 10:16 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Palestinians flee the Shujayeh neighbourhood in a vehicle during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza City July 20, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
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By Amena Bakr

DOHA, July 20 (Reuters) - Qatar will host a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday to try to push for an end to fighting in the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 300 people, a senior Qatari source told Reuters.

Due to take place in Doha, the meeting will be chaired by the Gulf state's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who has been acting as a "channel of communication" between the Islamist Hamas group and the international community, said the source.

"Qatar has presented Hamas' demands to the international community. The list has been presented to France and to the U.N. The talks tomorrow will be to further negotiate these conditions."

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has rejected Egyptian efforts to end the fighting that has killed at least 370 Palestinians, mostly civilians, saying any deal must include an end to a blockade of the coastal area and a recommitment to a ceasefire reached in an eight-day war there in 2012.

The conditions include the release of prisoners re-arrested since a 2011 exchange deal with Israel, the opening of Gaza-Israel border crossings and an end to an Israeli blockade on the Gaza seaport, a Hamas source in Doha told Reuters.

"In general, Israel must end all forms of aggression and attacks, end the blockade of Gaza and remove the actions that resulted from its military offensive in the West Bank after June 12," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters in the Palestinian Territories.

Western diplomatic sources see Qatar as a strategic player in reaching an effective ceasefire deal as the wealthy Gulf Arab state hosts a large number of exiled Islamists from across the Middle East, including Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.

Meshaal visited Kuwait on Sunday and held talks with the Gulf state's emir, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Arab League, Kuwait's state news agency said.

The senior Qatari source said Abbas was also due to hold talks with Meshaal following his meeting with the U.N. secretary-general.

"Qatar will not put any pressure on Hamas to bring down or reduce or change their demands. Qatar is only acting as a communication channel," the source said.

Egypt said on Saturday it had no plans to revise its ceasefire proposal, which Hamas has already rejected. And the Hamas source in Doha said the group has no plans to change its conditions for a ceasefire.

"We want the rights of our people. Palestinians on the ground are supporting us and we will get them back their rights," said the source.

Ban was also due to visit Cairo, Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank during a visit to the Middle East. (Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York and Nidal Al Mughrabi in Gaza; editing by Sami Aboudi and Tom Pfeiffer)

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