The latest round of indirect talks between Israel and Hamas over the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has ended without a deal and without agreement on when negotiations might resume, a senior Egyptian official said in an interview that appeared Thursday in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat. The official attributed the lack of progress to what he said was the entrenched positions being taken by the parties, but said Egypt would attempt to bridge the differences.
Khaled Meshal, the Damascus-based head of the Hamas political bureau, came to Cairo for the negotiations, but the Egyptian official quoted in Al-Hayat said Meshal did not get into specific details of a prisoner exchange in return for Shalit in the negotiations, but only dealt with the outlines in principle. "Each of the parties tried to achieve the best results from its standpoint," the official said, but he added that the parties also must make concessions.
Based on information from Palestinian sources, Al-Hayat reported Thursday that Hamas does not intend to concede its demands for the release of prisoners sentenced to long prison terms and for those considered political leaders. Despite the lack of progress, in an interview Wednesday with the Falastin newspaper, which is identified with Hamas, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said Israel was demonstrating significant flexibility in its stance on a prisoner exchange. "Israel's extreme position on a deal is softening substantially in the face of insistence of Hamas in its stance on its positions and demands," he said.
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