Qatar has made “significant progress" on hostage negotiations with Hamas but still some issues remain to be sorted out, even as 27 leaders of European Union called for "humanitarian pauses for aid suppliesn to flow", which was short of calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East, reports said.
"There has been 'significant progress' on negotiations to release hostages held by Hamas but there are issues still remaining," diplomatic sources familiar with the negotiations were quoted by CNN as saying.
"Negotiations are going very well. We have a breakthrough," the source said. "There are issues still remaining, but talks are ongoing, and we remain hopeful."
Qatar has helped US in the release of four hostages so far from Hamas captivity almost fortnight after they were kidnapped by the Hamas militants since their lightning strike from Gaza on October 7.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Barbara Leaf is now in Doha for meetings with Qatar’s leadership, CNN quoted informed sources. On the status of the hostage negotiations, Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said: "Every channel is a possible channel.
"One thing should be clear — we have a goal and I trust the State of Israel and the IDF … and we’ll keep doing every effort to bring the hostages and the missing back."
A Western official briefed on the hostage negotiations said there is still "optimism around a possible release, but there is also recognition that the clock is ticking". The official indicated talks had made progress but an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza will not be delayed much longer.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the 27 European Union member states had met in Brussels on Thursday and called for “humanitarian corridors and pauses for humanitarian needs." The call for humanitarian "pauses" stops short of calling for a ceasefire, ruled out earlier by several European leaders.
Meanwhile, France called for hundreds of aid trucks daily for Gaza as soon as possible following the recent visit of its President Emmanuelle Macron to Israel. French Foreign and European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna followed up on Macron’s visit saying: "Aid must be allowed into Gaza as soon as possible with hundreds of trucks needed every day."
"It is absolutely necessary to get aid into Gaza in a durable manner as soon as possible, in significantly greater volumes. Inspections on aid trucks were a real obstacle to the flow of needed supplies," she told French radio station RTL.
The French government announced a flight of 50 tons of aid for Gaza, which includes medicines, food aid and tents, a French Foreign Ministry source said on Friday, adding that the population of Gaza has "enormous and growing needs".
The lack of a guarantee of French aid being allowed into Gaza is the largest obstacle facing aid operations, the source said, adding there is "no special treatment for French aid".
This material aid is in addition to 20 million euros ($21.1 million) of French financial aid, split between multilateral international organizations and international NGOs already working in Gaza, reports said.