CAIRO, June 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell discussed on Saturday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak efforts to ease the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and progress of Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks.
Mitchell, who wrapped up his regional tour aimed at following up the developments of the U.S.-brokered indirect Palestinian- Israeli peace negotiations, briefed the Egyptian president on the outcome of his talks with Palestinian and Israeli officials.
The Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza strip figured high on the agenda of Mitchell's meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian officials with signs of easing the siege looming in the offing.
The Israeli government announced on Thursday plans to ease restrictions on the entry of basic commodities and construction materials to the Strip.
An Israeli governmental statement said three general moves were approved by the security cabinet: the method currently used to allow civilian commodities into Gaza will be changed to allow more goods to be transported into the Strip; building materials for civilian projects may be brought in but under supervision; the current security measures will remain in place to prevent military materiel from entering Gaza.
However, analysts suggest that such relaxation is not a permanent solution for the Gaza siege.
Dr. Emad Gad, an Israeli affairs expert in Egypt's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, ruled out that the siege imposed on the Palestinian enclave will end soon, saying that Tel Aviv will suffice with easing the blockade in response to the international pressure, especially following its attack on the Gaza-bound aid convoy in which nine activists were killed.
"There will be no lift of the siege imposed on Gaza. It will be just eased through coordination between Israel and international organizations," he said.
Gad also ruled out a Palestinian reconciliation will be reached soon which could help putting an end to the blockade.
"Both Fatah and Egypt still insist that Hamas has to sign the Egypt-brokered pact first before discussing any amendments, but Hamas insists that amendments come first," Gad said.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Abul Gheit said Saturday following the meeting between Mubarak and Mitchell that his country has no intention to amend the Palestinian national reconciliation document it brokered.
"Amendments to the reconciliation paper are totally unacceptable regardless of what they are," Abul Gheit said, urging Hamas to sign the document, which was already signed by Fatah unilaterally.
"And then they (Hamas) could debate directly any reservations they have with the Palestinian National Authority," the minister said.
Meanwhile, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat denied reports that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had accepted another reconciliation plan proposed by Hamas.
However, Gad dismissed the idea that the failure of the inter- Palestinian reconciliation would have negative impact on the progress of proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Israel does not wait for achieving Palestinian reconciliation. It employed this division in the past to postpone negotiations on the final status. Now every thing is stable and Hamas poses no danger to Israel," he said, describing the Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks as a success.
"As long as the proximity talks do not stop, this means that it proves success in overcoming a crucial stage marked by tension," he said referring to the resumption of talks despite Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla.
The Egyptian expert expected Israel to respond to some of the requests made by the Palestinians, especially regarding the security issues and allowing aid to Gaza, due to U.S. pressure.
The Palestinian leadership wants a complete Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and they demand Israel to completely halt all settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and resume the talks on final-status issues that end with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, said on Friday that Abbas is waiting for the Israeli answers to the Palestinian "ideas related to security and borders" carried by Mitchell.