Egypt has decided, for now, to turn down Israel's request to reprise its role in mediating the negotiations for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit's release, the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper reported on its Sunday edition headline.
"Egyptian officials believe renewing talks with Hamas would reverse the recent slippage in the movement's standing - particularly if Israel releases Palestinians prisoners as part of a deal," the report added. It reported that Egyptian officials insist Hamas is unwilling to restrict the scope of the talks to the prisoners and wants to expand it to include its relationship with Fatah and with Egypt. According to officials involved in the negotiations, Israel and Hamas are continuing to put pressure on Cairo to renew the talks whereas the latter and Fatah oppose their resumption.
Senior Hamas officials confirmed that talks over Shalit's release had not resumed. Osama Mazzini, a high-ranking Hamas official involved in the negotiations, confirmed that the talks had reached an advanced stage prior to the Hamas takeover, with Israel agreeing to release 350 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit's transfer to Egypt. After Shalit's return to Israel, an additional 100 Palestinian prisoners would be released, with another 550 to be released months later as an Israeli gesture of goodwill.
Mazzini claimed the talks broke down over the specific prisoners to be included in the first 350 to be released.