Scoop: Top Biden adviser to visit Egypt and Qatar to discuss hostage talks
Senior Biden adviser Brett McGurk is expected to travel to Egypt and Qatar this week for talks aimed at making progress in the negotiations to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and to discuss the war in Gaza, three sources with knowledge of the issue told Axios.
Why it matters: The trip is part of a renewed push by the Biden administration to get a hostage deal. U.S. officials acknowledge that reaching such an agreement might be the only path that could lead to a ceasefire in Gaza.
- It's McGurk's second trip to the region this month to discuss the issue. He quietly visited Doha on Jan. 9.
Driving the news: McGurk is expected to travel to the Middle East on Sunday. In Egypt, he will meet with Minister of Intelligence Abbas Kamel.
- The Egyptian intelligence service is one of the key mediators between Israel and Hamas on the hostage issue.
- McGurk is also expected to meet with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani in Doha later in the week. Qatar is the second mediator between Hamas and Israel.
State of play: McGurk consulted with Israeli officials last week on the hostage negotiations. President Biden discussed the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.
- While in the region, McGurk is also expected to discuss the war in Gaza and other regional tensions, the sources said.
- The White House declined to comment. Qatari and Egyptian officials also declined to comment.
What they're saying: "The discussions we're having are sober and serious about potentially getting another hostage deal in place," White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Friday.
- But he made clear that no imminent deal is expected. "There's a lot of hard work still ahead," he said.
The big picture: More than 130 hostages are still being held captive in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.
- Several major gaps remain in the negotiations, including Hamas' demand that the war in Gaza ends ahead of any possible hostage deal — a demand Israel has rejected.