United Nations special envoy to the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, met on Sunday in Cairo wth Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and described the talks with him on the prospects of reaching a deal on restoring calm between Israel and the Palestinians as "positive."
Mladenov and Shoukry spoke about recent violence in Gaza and the West Bank, the severe economic crisis in Gaza and efforts at Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah, which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
In his efforts in cooperation with Egypt and other Arab countries to advance a proposal that would end the round of violence, the UN envoy met on Saturday with representatives of Hamas in Gaza after previously meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party.
According to reports from Egypt, the agreement would initially include a removal of restrictions to movement at the commercial Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza, along with a cease-fire, which would include an end to the launching of incendiary balloons from Gaza across the border into Israel.
In a second stage, negotiations would be undertaken on the return of the bodies of the two Israeli soldiers who were killed in the Strip during the war that Israel fought against Hamas and its allies in 2014. The return of the bodies of the soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, would be in exchange for the advancement of humanitarian projects in Gaza to be funded by the international community.
At a briefing to the United Nations Security Council last week, Mladenov called the past several months of violence on the Gaza border the worst escalation since 2014 and said his delegation to the Middle East has been making considerable effort to calm the situation, to advance reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and to promote the reconstruction of utilities, infrastructure and medical services in the Strip as well as expanding job opportunities there.
As part of these efforts, Mladenov has now come to agreement with the World Bank on an increase in its financial support for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to $90 million, up from $55 million last year.
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