Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, amid a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at sealing a truce in Gaza.
Clinton arrived in Cairo and went straight into talks with Morsi and then with Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, while Ban held talks with the Egyptian president, his office said.
Clinton and Ban have been shuttling between Egypt, Israel and the West Bank in a bid to bolster a proposed ceasefire agreement that Cairo brokered between Israel and the Hamas movement that controls the Gaza Strip.
Members of the Islamist movement have been locked in talks with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo to discuss the terms of the truce.
“Hamas is now waiting to see what message the Egyptian intelligence officials will have after Morsi’s meeting with Clinton,” a source close to the talks told AFP.
The US top diplomat arrived earlier from Israel where she held a second round of talks on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after travelling to the West Bank city of Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.
In their talks, Clinton thanked Abbas for encouraging a restoration of calm and expressed “heartfelt concern for innocent lives lost” on both sides, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“The secretary indicated that we were working to support ongoing efforts to defuse the crisis, especially Egyptian-Israeli conversations,” Nuland said in a statement issued in Washington.
Israel’s offensive, launched on November 14 with the targeted killing of a Hamas military chief, has killed at least 147 Palestinians, while five Israelis, including a soldier, have died in rocket attacks.
A senior Hamas official told AFP in Cairo that a key sticking point in the truce talks was the timing of when Israel would begin easing its six-year blockade of Gaza.
Netanyahu had told Clinton on Tuesday night that he was ready to agree to a “long-term solution” as long as the rocket attacks from Gaza stopped.
But a blast ripped through a bus in Tel Aviv on Wednesday injuring 17 people in what Israel said was a terrorist attack, further vexing efforts to end the violence.