Israel said on Sunday it would send a delegation to attend indirect Gaza truce talks with Hamas in Cairo next week, although a minister said they would likely achieve nothing.
Confirmation that Israel would return to the Egyptian capital on Tuesday to resume negotiations on cementing an August 26 ceasefire agreement which halted 50 days of bloodshed in Gaza, came from a senior Israeli official, who refused to give further details.
Egypt, which has played a key role in the talks, had initially invited both sides to resume talks on Wednesday but it was pulled forward because of Jewish New Year which begins at sundown on September 24 and runs into the weekend.
The negotiations are to tackle a number of unresolved issues including a Palestinian demand for a seaport and airport in Gaza, and Israel’s demand for militants in the territory to disarm.
They will also touch on a proposed prisoner swap agreement which would see Hamas releasing the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the fighting in exchange for Israel freeing Palestinian detainees.
Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the cross-party Palestinian negotiating team, confirmed that talks had been brought forward due to the Jewish New Year.
“The Jewish holidays will start on Wednesday, so we hope that a meeting between the two delegations will take place on Tuesday, for discussing issues postponed until this meeting,” he told Voice of Palestine radio.
But an Israeli minister close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the talks were unlikely to achieve anything beyond agreement on certain elements of rebuilding the battered Gaza Strip.
“I don’t have very high hopes for the talks in Cairo as long as Hamas won’t agree to demilitarise Gaza and give up its weapons,” Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told reporters at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“Unfortunately, I don’t see it accepting these principles, so, apart from the immediate rehabilitation (of the enclave), there is no real, long-term solution to the situation in Gaza,” he said.
“There is a long-term ceasefire already in place, a truce which is not limited in time,” he said, suggesting there was little more to be achieved.
Ahead of the resumption of talks in Cairo, there will be a round of talks between the two heavyweights of Palestinian politics, the Fatah faction of president Mahmud Abbas and its Islamist rival, Hamas.
Observers say the outcome of this week’s truce talks will hinge largely on what is agreed at the Hamas-Fatah meeting, which will focus heavily on the future governance of Gaza by the Ramallah-based national consensus government.