BRUSSELS, BELGIUM // The European Union will today press Egypt to step up its mediation efforts to secure a Palestinian unity government and re-ignite the Middle East peace process. Diplomats said a Palestinian unity government would lead the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip after an Israeli offensive. Hamas said power-sharing talks with its Palestinian rival Fatah are stuck because of disagreements over the political programme of a future government.
The talks between key European Union, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian officials will also focus on efforts to open more crossings into Gaza for humanitarian aid. The EU also hopes to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza that are used for cross-border attacks on Israeli border towns. Israel is counting on international help to prevent militants from Hamas and other groups from getting the weapons. The rocket bombardments spurred Israel's Gaza offensive which ended in January and diplomats hope to prevent another round of fighting.
The talks will be led by the Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg of the Czech Republic, which holds the EU presidency. *AP