Biden speaks to Qatar, Egypt leaders ahead of key meeting on Gaza hostage talks
President Biden spoke separately on Friday with the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to discuss the efforts to secure the release of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, the White House said.
Why it matters: The calls are part of a push by Biden personally and his team for a new hostage deal that could lead to a two-month pause in the fighting in Gaza and open the way for ending the war.
- Qatar and Egypt are the key mediators in the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas over a possible hostage deal.
Driving the news: Biden made the calls ahead of a critical meeting in Europe on Sunday between CIA director Bill Burns, the Qatar prime minister and the Egyptian and Israeli spy chiefs that is aimed at reaching a breakthrough in the negotiations.
- Brett McGurk, Biden's senior Middle East adviser, visited Cairo and Doha earlier this week to discuss the status of the negotiations.
What they're saying: Biden and the Qatari emir "affirmed that a hostage deal is central to establishing a prolonged humanitarian pause in the fighting and ensure additional life-saving humanitarian assistance reaches civilians in need throughout Gaza," the White House said in a readout of call.
- "They underscored the urgency of the situation, and welcomed the close cooperation among their teams to advance recent discussions," the readout added.
- White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Friday the U.S. is "hopeful" about the progress in the talks but "doesn't expect imminent developments" towards a deal.
State of play: A senior Israeli official said the negotiations are difficult, complex and slow but it seems both sides want to make progress and succeed in reaching an agreement.
- The official said the aim of the meeting in Europe on Sunday is to coordinate and synchronize between the two mediators and find a way to make progress on the two main sticking points.
- Hamas' demand that Israel commit to ending the war after the hostages are released is a red line for Israel, the official added.
- There's also a huge gap between the number of Palestinian prisoners Hamas wants to be released and the number Israel is willing to release, according to the Israeli official.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional details from the calls.