Kerry urges Hamas to end conflict, has ‘constructive’ Egypt talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Hamas on Tuesday to pursue a negotiated end to its conflict with Israel after what he said were constructive talks with Egyptian officials about their cease-fire proposal.

After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose country has mediated in the Arab-Israeli conflict in the past, Kerry said there was still “work to do” to try to resolve conflict in which more than 600 people have died.

“Hamas has a fundamental choice to make and it is a choice that will have a profound impact for the people of Gaza,” Kerry told reporters in a joint appearance with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shukri.

“The Egyptians have provided a framework and a forum for them to be able to come to the table to have a serious discussion together with other factions of the Palestinians.”

Hamas has already rejected the Egyptian initiative, saying the plan ignores its demands for the release of prisoners and for a more comprehensive lifting of an economic blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Egypt is deeply suspicious of Hamas because it is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement toppled by then army chief Sisi last year. Hamas has complained that Cairo froze it out of talks on the cease-fire proposal.

Cairo says it has consulted with all Palestinian factions.

Kerry, who earlier in the day met separately with Shukri and with Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby, stressed that after any cease-fire was achieved the parties would need to grapple with the underlying issues in their conflict.

“Just reaching a cease-fire, clearly, is not enough,” he said. “It is imperative that there be a serious engagement, discussion, negotiation, regarding the underlying issues and addressing all of the concerns that have brought us to where we are today.”