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Gaza Ceasefire Negotiations Unlikely to Restart for Weeks, Diplomats Say

Diplomats at the annual Doha Forum conference in Qatar have said they are not expecting any reopening of Gaza ceasefire talks for some weeks and say their resumption may turn on Israel being able to point to the killing or capture of some of Hamas’s key leaders as a sign that its military operation has achieved its purpose.

The US believes this can be achieved as early as Christmas, but different timeframes are circulating.

In the meantime, although there will be new diplomatic initiatives, including a further debate and vote on a ceasefire at the UN general assembly on Tuesday, the Biden administration is not going to apply any more pressure on Israel to end its campaign.

In Europe, Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief said the bloc would propose that its member state governments impose sanctions on extremist settlers in the West Bank committing acts of violence against Palestinians – a move echoed in London, where Andrew Mitchell, a Foreign Office minister, told MPs the government was considering travel bans for violent West Bank settlers.

Intervening factors that could undermine Israeli efforts to delay a ceasefire include an escalation of the violence outside the region, most likely in Lebanon, a desperate breakout by displaced and starving Palestinian refugees into Egypt, and overwhelming pressure on the Israeli government to prioritise the release of the remaining hostages.

Hamas has made it clear in public and private that it will not be willing to resume negotiations on the remaining 137 hostages unless it is offered a ceasefire at the end of the process of prisoner swaps, something Israel has been unwilling to offer and that the US vetoed at the UN security council last Friday.

A UN general assembly vote on a ceasefire on Tuesday based on the text of a security council resolution vetoed by the US is likely to be passed by a similar margin to a vote in late October on a sustained humanitarian pause, by 120 votes to 14 with 45 abstentions, but the votes of the assembly are only declaratory.

Hossein Amirabdollahian, the Iranian foreign minister, speaking to the conference in Doha continued to warn of further escalation and said he had been told by the Hamas political bureau that the organisation had the means to resist Israel for several years, which is not a widely shared assessment.

The group attacked southern Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, after which Israel began a campaign that has killed more than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, in Gaza, according to Hamas-run health authorities.

Amirabdollahian said that “Hamas is a national liberation movement and we support their struggle against the Zionist regime” but insisted that neither it nor Hezbollah in Lebanon were under Tehran’s control.

“The resistance movements in the region are independent and not dependent on us,” he said. “Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah movements have the power to manufacture and buy weapons, and their decisions regarding their actions are independent and we do not interfere in it.”

So far the US assessment is that Iran is not going to intervene directly and was not involved in the planning of the Hamas attacks in October.

Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, continues to enjoy the full support of other Gulf states, including over its refusal to take refugees from the territory. A dozen UN ambassadors, organised by the UAE and Egypt, travelled to the border to see for themselves the flow of aid into Gaza.

UAE’s ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibeh, asserted that the countries participating were doing so in their “national and personal capacities” and the trip was aimed to “help understand not only the suffering and destruction experienced by the people of Gaza, but also their hope and their strength”. The UAE is the only Arab representative on the security council.

The Palestinian leadership insists they will not discuss how Gaza is administered after the war at this stage, saying any such discussion depends on its state at the end of the conflict.

But Gulf states have said they are not prepared to be involved in the reconstruction of Gaza unless the US pressures Israel into providing a clear route map to a two-state solution, something that may depend on the removal of Benjamin Netanyahu from power and the election of a new government.

Speaking in Doha, Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, said: “We must leave the issue of who leads and who governs Palestine to the Palestinians,” implicitly rejecting calls for an interim Palestinian leadership in Gaza led by technocrats.

“There was never in our history a Palestinian president or leader who was not elected and chosen by his people, and there shall never be. Only the Palestinian people will decide upon that,” he said.

“If you want to focus on anything to be done right now, we need the US and UK to do one thing now, not to mediate, because they are not able to do so given the voting in the security council, but to recognise the state of Palestine. Without recognising the two states, stop giving me lip service about the two states.”

Source: The Guardian