CIA Director Burns traveling back to Europe for ceasefire talks

CIA Director Bill Burns is traveling back to Europe to try to get the talks on a ceasefire and hostage deal between Israel and Hamas that would halt the war in Gaza back on track, a US official told CNN.

“The Director is traveling to Europe in the coming days in an effort to revive the talks,” the US official said. “The director is in frequent discussions with the Egyptians, Qataris and Israelis. Both Egypt and Qatar are very engaged, as are the Israelis.”

The latest round of talks comes as the war in Gaza has reached its seventh month, leaving more than 35,000 people dead and thousands of Palestinians in desperate need of food, water and medical aid. The last temporary truce, in November, saw the release of more than 100 hostages, but the Israel Defense Forces estimate that there are still around 130 people being held.

Burns has acted as a key interlocutor for the United States in the multiparty talks between Israel, Hamas, Egypt and Qatar, and he has been dispatched during previous rounds of talks, only to see them later collapse.

A Qatari official told CNN that Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani will also take part. The prime minister is currently in Paris, the official said.

Neither official would confirm the other participants. In the past they have been joined in Paris by Israel’s Mossad Director David Barnea and the head of Egyptian intelligence Abbas Kamel.

The talks were paused three weeks ago after Burns crisscrossed the region trying to close the remaining gaps between Israel and Hamas. CNN reported Tuesday that Egypt muddied the negotiations after independently changing the terms of a framework that Israel had signed on to and presenting it to Hamas who then declared they accepted it.

The ceasefire agreement that Hamas ended up announcing on May 6 was not what the Qataris or the Americans believed had been submitted to Hamas for a potential final review, three sources told CNN. The proposal had been changed without the knowledge of Israel or the other mediators, the US and Qatar, prompting anger and frustration.

Burns was in the region when word reached him that the Egyptians had changed the terms of the deal. Two days after Hamas’ response on May 6, Burns returned to Washington and sources told CNN the talks were “paused.”

The Qataris are expected to play a bigger role in this round, a source previously told CNN, but Egypt is still expected to be central given their essential proximity to Hamas, as well as Israel’s preference of Egypt to Qatar.

The discussions would still be expected to center on a broad framework that would include an initial stage in which up to 33 Israeli hostages would be released over at least six weeks. Hamas has been pushing to include the bodies of dead hostages in the initial release and also have the first phase flow into a second with no break — both positions that Israel has resisted.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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