donderdag 15 januari 2009

Overeenkomst VS en Israel tegen wapensmokkel Gaza nabij

Het ziet er naar uit dat er binnenkort eindelijk een staakt het vuren komt, waarin de wapensmokkel wordt geregeld. Hoe de controle langs de grenzen precies geregeld gaat worden, en of en welke rol de Palestijnse Autoriteit, de EU of andere landen zoals Turkije daarin gaan spelen, is nog onduidelijk.

Last update - 03:27 15/01/2009
U.S., Israel close in on deal to halt arms smuggling into Gaza
By Barak Ravid, Amos Harel, and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents, and Reuters

A memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israel on security and intelligence cooperation aimed at countering the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip is being prepared and may be signed as early as Friday, Haaretz has learned.

Meanwhile, Hamas has agreed in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire but is still demanding clarifications on a number of issues, senior officials for the group said in Cairo on Wednesday.

The head of the political-security bureau in the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, will travel to Cairo today for talks on a cease-fire.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos that he wanted to bring the operation in the Gaza Strip to an end if Hamas agreed to the Egyptian proposal.

At the crux of the cooperation agreement between Israel and the U.S. is supervision to halt the smuggling of arms from Iran, through the Persian Gulf to Sudan and other countries, and finally to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The director general of the Foreign Ministry, Aharon Abramowitz, will meet with State Department officials Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Hale in Washington today, as well as officials from the White House, Defense Department and U.S. intelligence agencies, in an effort to reach a written guarantee that the United States will act more extensively against the smuggling.

If an agreement is formulated, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will travel to Washington to sign the agreement.

Israel is asking for a number of guarantees from the Americans:

- A U.S. declaration calling on the international community to deal with the smuggling of arms from Iran to terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

- Intelligence cooperation between Israel and the U.S. for identifying the sources of weapons, with focus on the network linking Iran, the Persian Gulf and Sudan.

- An international maritime effort along the smuggling routes to find ships carrying weapons to the Gaza Strip, possibly with the involvement of NATO.

- An American and European commitment for the transfer of technologies to Egypt that will help it uncover tunnels.

- Plans for the economic development of Rafah, with particular emphasis on the Bedouin to undercut the financial motivation for building and operating tunnels.

Amos Gilad's trip to Cairo on Thursday for meetings with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was postponed twice this week, and his going now suggests some progress has taken place in talks between Egypt and Hamas, and that Gilad will be debriefed on developments on the cease-fire proposal agreement.

Gilad also wants to confirm that Egypt is serious in its commitment to combat weapons smuggling along the Philadelphi Route into Gaza.

A top Israeli diplomatic sources said he was told by a senior Egyptian official that "we understand the problem and promise that the matter of smuggling will end." The Egyptian added, "Now we have the legitimacy to fight it, in order to prevent continued IDF activity."

The Hamas announcement that it agreed in principle to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal was followed by a further statement by Salah al-Bardawil that the group was working toward achieving the following goals: an end to Israeli aggression in Gaza; the lifting of the siege on Gaza; the reopening of Gaza's border crossings; the rehabilitation of the Strip;and a compensation for Gaza residents.

Bardawil said Hamas had generally accepted the terms of the Egyptian proposal but demanded clarifications on several clauses. He said that the Egyptian initiative is the only one Hamas was presented with.

"We're not talking about amending the proposal, since it was presented by Egyptian President [Hosni] Mubarak, but this is a proposal that includes many phrases, and each side has the right to present its opinion and interpretation of these phrases. We have voiced our stance and our interests within the framework of this general outline and the guidelines anchored in the Egyptian proposal," Bardawil said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmet Aboul Gheit said Monday evening that Hamas had accepted the Egyptian draft, which calls for immediate end to aggression on Gaza, the opening of the border crossings and the withdrawal of Israeli forces inside the Strip. He said that Hamas representatives presented their stance to Egyptian intelligence officials, and that they in turn will relay the outcome of their talks to Israel.

Mohammed Nasser, a member of Hamas' political bureau who was present in the talks, voiced reservations regarding the announcement that the Egyptian proposal was acceptable to Hamas, saying that Hamas' willingness to cooperate with Egyptian efforts did not mean that they had accepted the proposal.

"There are still clauses under discussion and we are still pushing the issue," he said.

In Israel, defense sources said yesterday that the Hamas declaration reflected a significant softening of the group's original stance.

The same sources said Hamas was responding to the pressure from the military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Israel must try to seek a quick cease-fire, said the source, and the Israel Defense Forces must try to avoid 'complications' - army talk for losses.

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