DOHA: A deal to free captives Hamas seized in its Oct 7 attack on the Zionist entity now hinges on “minor” practical issues, Qatar’s prime minister said Sunday, without giving details or a timeline. “The challenges that remain in the negotiations are very minor compared to the bigger challenges, they are more logistical, they are more practical,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told a joint press conference with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
Qatar has helped broker talks aiming to free some of the 240 captives in return for a temporary ceasefire, a mediation effort that has so far led to the release of four captives. “The deal is going through ups and downs from time to time throughout the last few weeks,” the premier said. “I think that I’m now more confident that we are close enough to reach a deal that can bring the people safely back to their homes.”
Borrell, who was due to meet with Qatar’s Amir before travelling on to Jordan, called for the “unconditional release” of all captives while denouncing the Hamas attack on the Zionist entity. “There’s no hierarchy between horrors, one horror doesn’t justify another horror,” the EU foreign policy chief added, urging an end to the escalating violence and the creation of “sustainable peace” in the region.
The United States said Saturday it was still working to secure a deal between the Zionist entity and Hamas after the Washington Post reported there was a tentative agreement to free women and children held in Gaza in exchange for a pause in fighting. Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said all parties would halt combat operations for at least five days while some captives were to be released in batches.
The White House quickly responded on Saturday evening with a message on X, formerly Twitter, to deny any major breakthrough. US deputy national security advisor Jon Finer told NBC they were “closer than we have been in quite some time” to securing a deal. But he added on CBS: “The mantra that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed really does apply.”
Sheikh Mohammed said on Sunday it was “counterproductive to see leaks about the negotiations coming out in the media before sealing the deal”. On Thursday Biden had said he was “mildly hopeful” of reaching a deal to free the captives, believed to include about 10 US citizens. The Zionist entity has so far refused to heed calls for a ceasefire before all the captives are released. – AFP