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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Negotiate, Talk, Negotiate — And A First Small Sign That Israel Is Listening

In Qatar, Egypt, Paris or on the phone, negotiators are busy trying to secure the release of hostages, push for "humanitarian pauses", and prepare for the political aftermath of the war. Meanwhile, the war rages on in Gaza.

photo of woman and man diplomats in front of flags

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock welcomed by her Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in Amman, October 19.

Kira Hofmann/dpa via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — War is not just the actions of soldiers, but also the movements of negotiators that are sometimes even harder to see.

On Thursday, however, we learned that the director of the CIA, William Burns, and the head of Mossad, the Israeli secret service, David Barnea, were in Qatar, where they met their counterparts in that country, along with its Prime Minister. Qatar is the country with the most direct links to Hamas, which it has long financed — with a tacit green light from Israel.

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At the same time Thursday, the main Hamas political leaders abroad, Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mechal, were arriving in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, another key country in the equation.

Arab and Muslim countries are meeting this weekend in Saudi Arabia, while a conference on the humanitarian stakes of the Gaza war was held Thursday in Paris, with the participation of the Palestinian Authority, but not Israel.

A small Netanyahu concession

So what is this frenzy of meetings and summits all about, as the tragedy in Gaza continues to unfold?

There's no shortage of topics: the fate of the 240 hostages in the hands of Hamas, humanitarian aid and the means to bring relief to Gazans in desperate straits, and finally, the still vague and uncertain political future that needs to be anticipated. That's a lot, and it's certainly hard to make progress when bombs are falling on Gaza.

The Israeli government relented for the first time Thursday, accepting the principle of a humanitarian pause of four hours a day to allow international aid to arrive. The Americans had asked for a three-day pause, but only got four hours.

Nevertheless, it is the first Israeli concession since the October 7 massacre and the start of reprisals in Gaza, though immediately denounced as a "grave error" by a far-right ally of Benjamin Netanyahu.

photo of blinken briefing reports in state departmen

Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefs reporters

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/Planet Pix via ZUMA

Macron says the word

The Israeli Prime Minister made it clear that there was absolutely no current possibility of a bonafide ceasefire, as called for by many countries, the United Nations and international humanitarian activists and NGOs.

The question of a ceasefire is crucial — French President Emmanuel Macron used the word for the first time, opening the Paris Humanitarian Conference. Not to ask for a ceasefire directly, but in the hope that "humanitarian pauses" could lead to a durable truce. This is still a long way off, and Israel wants to first see through its military operation to destroy Hamas and its infrastructure in Gaza.

Current talks are also focusing on the fate of the hostages, with Qatar and Egypt playing a key role. Rumors of imminent releases are circulating, but these negotiations are complex and ever fluid.

Abbas can't appear as a partner of Israel and the U.S.

Finally, there is the preparation of the political aftermath of the war: the United States wants to put Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority back in the saddle, though without making him appear as the partner of the Israeli army, pushed by Washington.

There's a growing consensus to relaunch a political process aimed at a two-state solution, as called for by Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron and so many others. But everyone knows how hard that goal will be to achieve.

For now, it's mostly just talk, though that's still better than nothing.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin's "Pig-Like" Latvia Threat Is A Chilling Reminder Of What's At Stake In Ukraine

In the Ukraine war, Russia's military spending is as high as ever. Now the West is alarmed because the Kremlin leader is indirectly hinting at a possible attack on Latvia, a NATO member. It is a reminder of a growing danger to Europe.

Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Pavel Lokshin


BERLIN — Russian President Vladimir Putin sometimes chooses downright bizarre occasions to launch his threats against the West. It was at Monday's meeting of the Russian Human Rights Council, where Putin expressed a new, deep concern. It was not of course about the human rights of the thousands of political prisoners in his own country, but about the Russian population living in neighboring Latvia, which happens to be a NATO member, having to take language tests.

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