American-led negotiators are edging closer to an agreement in which Israel would suspend its war in the Gaza Strip for about two months in exchange for the release of more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas, a deal that could be sealed in the next two weeks and would transform the conflict consuming the region.
Negotiators have developed a written draft agreement merging proposals offered by Israel and Hamas in the last 10 days into a basic framework that will be the subject of talks in Paris on Sunday. While there are still important disagreements to be worked out, negotiators are cautiously optimistic that a final accord is within reach, according to U.S. officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive talks.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke by phone separately Friday with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, who have served as intermediaries with Hamas, to narrow the remaining differences. He is also sending his CIA director, William Burns, to Paris for Sunday’s talks with Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials. If Burns makes enough progress, Biden may then send his Middle East coordinator, Brett McGurk, who just returned to Washington, back to the region to help finalize the agreement.