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Egypt proposes talks, cease-fire for Gaza

  • Story Highlights
  • Egyptian, French presidents invite Palestinian factions, Israel to "urgent meeting"
  • Talks would focus on stopping violence from escalating, border security
  • Rice applauds statement, but doesn't support a temporary cease-fire
  • Syria: Hamas ready to agree to peace if Israel leaves Gaza, stops military action
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Egypt has put forward a plan for a truce in Gaza that would include an immediate cease-fire and meetings in Cairo between leaders of Israel and "Palestinian factions."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, left, welcomes French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Egypt Tuesday.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, left, welcomes French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Egypt Tuesday.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, speaking alongside French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday after the two leaders met in Egypt, invited the two sides to an "urgent meeting."

He said the discussions would focus on avoiding an escalation of the violence, securing borders between Israel and Gaza -- where Hamas militants have fired rockets into southern Israel -- and opening border crossings into and out of Gaza.

Elements of the plan, which was circulating through the United Nations late Tuesday, quickly gained support from representatives of many U.N. Security Council nations.

"Let me assure you that we understand the urgency of an end to the fighting and that we are working around the clock to bring it into being," said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "In this regard, we are pleased by and wish to commend the statement of the president of Egypt and to follow up on that initiative."

Senior State Department officials late Tuesday said Rice still does not support the call for a temporary cease-fire. The United States has dismissed the idea, saying that without significant change it would just lead back to the "status quo" in the region.

"We need urgently to conclude a cease-fire that can endure and that can bring real security," said Rice. "This would begin a period of true calm that includes an end to rocket, mortar and other attacks on Israelis and allows for the cessation of Israel's military offensive."

The Egyptian plan, according to diplomatic officials, calls for a temporary cease-fire to allow borders to be opened for humanitarian relief. The members of the Middle East Quartet -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- also would be asked to the talks under Mubarak's plan.

It was unclear what role, if any, Hamas would play in the talks. Formally inviting the group, which Israel, the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization, could make Israel less likely to participate.

Late Tuesday, at the United Nations, diplomats including the ambassador from Libya said that Arab Nations still plan to offer a resolution condemning Israel's actions to the U.N. Security Council.

They said such a resolution would complement possible talks in Cairo, while a French diplomat said a vote on an overarching resolution is unlikely as action moves toward Egypt and the Middle East. Video Watch Tony Blair's reaction to the conflict »

The meeting between Mubarak and Sarkozy came after Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said Hamas was ready to agree to peace if the Israeli army will stop military operations and withdraw from Gaza.

"They are ready [to make a deal]," Al-Assad told CNN's Cal Perry in an exclusive interview. "They were ready, they are ready. Today, the factors have changed so the requirement will change at the same time.Video Watch CNN's interview with al-Assad »

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"We cannot talk about the same condition, like what happened a few years ago. Otherwise, we'll keep moving from a cease-fire to another conflict to another breaking of this cease-fire and so on. The more blood you have, the more difficult to talk about peace will be."

Al-Assad met with Sarkozy earlier Tuesday. Sarkozy appealed to Al-Assad for help in bringing about a halt to the conflict in the Middle East -- an Israeli incursion into Gaza after eight days of Israeli airstrikes.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Elise Labott, Richard Roth and Michal Zippori contributed to this report.

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