Blinken says US will try to bridge Israel-Hamas gaps on deal

DOHA    -  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed Wednesday to work to seal a Gaza ceasefire agreement, saying not all Hamas demands were acceptable but voicing hope gaps could be closed.

Consulting with key mediator Qatar on the Hamas response to the plan outlined by US President Joe Biden, Blinken said the Palestinian group could have given a “clear and simple yes” but voiced guarded hope for moving forward. “We believe that some of the requested changes are workable and some are not,” Blinken told reporters in Doha.

“And so we have to see on an urgent basis over the course of the coming days whether those gaps are bridgeable.” But he said the onus was on Hamas, describing the rest of the world as united in seeking an end to the eight-month war. “We’re determined to try to bridge the gaps. And I believe those gaps are bridgeable,” Blinken said. “That doesn’t mean they will be bridged because, ultimately, Hamas has to decide,” he said.

“The longer this goes on, the more people will suffer, and it’s time for the haggling to stop.”

He added: “I believe it’s absolutely necessary to try our hardest to do it. But there’s no guarantee.” Hamas proposed amendments late Tuesday including a ceasefire timeline and the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, according to a source familiar with the talks.

The plan Biden laid out on May 31 calls for an Israeli withdrawal from “major population centres” and a ceasefire for six weeks, which could then be extended if negotiators need more time to seek a permanent deal. Blinken declined to elaborate on the Hamas demands.

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