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Qatar Says It Is Reviewing Its Mediator Role as Israel-Hamas Talks Stall

WorldMiddle EastQatar Says It Is Reviewing Its Mediator Role as Israel-Hamas Talks Stall


Qatar’s prime minister has said that his government is reviewing its role as a key mediator between Israel and Hamas after criticism by U.S. and Israeli officials, who have urged it to exert more pressure on the Palestinian armed group to reach a deal.

“We have seen insults against our mediation, and its exploitation for the sake of narrow political interests,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, the Qatari premier, said at a news conference this week. “This has caused Qatar to comprehensively review that role.”

In late March, a flurry of shuttle diplomacy involving Israel, Hamas and mediators including the United States had raised hopes for a new cease-fire deal in the war in Gaza. But those efforts appear to have reached a dead end for now, according to Israeli and Hamas officials.

It was not immediately clear that the Qatari prime minister’s comments would mean any change in the country’s role. Qatari mediators have remained in contact with Israeli representatives and have not changed their approach in recent days, said an Israeli official familiar with the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive deliberations.

Qatar, a small Persian Gulf nation, has carved out an influential position as a mediator that can shuttle between Western countries and armed groups like Hamas and the Taliban. It hosts much of Hamas’s political leadership and has helped broker cease-fires during previous escalations in Gaza, including last November.

Since the war broke out in October, Qatari mediators, alongside officials from Egypt and the United States, have sought to broker a deal for a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of hostages held there. Over 100 hostages were released in a weeklong truce that began in late November.

While neither side has publicly released its proposals, Hamas has demanded a permanent end to Israel’s military offensive, the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and the return of many Palestinians to northern Gaza in exchange for the release of hostages.

Israeli officials have said their negotiators had proposed allowing some Palestinians to return to northern Gaza, but would not allow Hamas to reconstitute its rule there. And they have said that they intend to launch a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah whether or not a truce is declared.

The two sides are also divided over how many hostages Hamas would free in the first phase of a truce in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Some U.S. and Israeli officials have said Doha is not doing enough to wring concessions from Hamas. Israel had hoped that Qatari mediators would exert significantly more pressure on the armed group by threatening to expel its leaders from Doha or close its bank accounts, the Israeli official said.

And this week, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, a Democrat, said that Doha should face consequences if it is not tougher on Hamas.

“Qatar needs to make it clear to Hamas that there will be repercussions if it continues to block progress,” he said in a statement. “If Qatar fails to apply this pressure, the United States must re-evaluate its relationship with Qatar,” he added.

In a statement, Qatar’s Embassy in Washington said the country’s leaders shared Mr. Hoyer’s frustration over the failure to reach an arrangement.

“Qatar is only a mediator — we do not control Israel or Hamas,” the embassy said, adding: “Blaming and threatening the mediator is not constructive.”





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