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US and 16 other countries whose citizens were taken hostage urge Hamas and Israel to ‘close this deal’

CNN News

Published: June 6,2024 2:35 PM

The United States and 16 other countries whose citizens were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 are set to release a joint statement Thursday calling on Israel and Hamas to come to an agreement on the most recent ceasefire and hostages proposal, according to a US official – marking the latest move in the Biden administration’s push to bring to an end the Israel-Hamas war.

“It is time for the war to end,” the statement, shared with CNN, bluntly says. The joint message also points to the Israeli ceasefire and hostages proposal that President Joe Biden publicly outlined in a speech last week as “the necessary starting point” for bringing the Gaza conflict to a close, eight months after the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

“There is no time to lose. We call on Hamas to close this agreement, that Israel is ready to move forward with, and begin the process of releasing our citizens,” the statement says. “At this decisive moment, we call on the leaders of Israel as well as Hamas to make whatever final compromises are necessary to close this deal and bring relief to the families of our hostages, as well as those on both sides of this terrible conflict, including the civilian populations.”

The United States, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom signed the joint statement. Those 17 countries have citizens whom Hamas took captive at the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

The statement marks one more example of the Biden administration’s ongoing pressure campaign to push Hamas and Israel to get to a “yes” on an agreement for a ceasefire and the release of hostages.

Biden took the unusual step last week of publicly detailing in a speech what he said were the details of Israel’s latest ceasefire offer to Hamas, in the hopes of fueling progress in the negotiations. Asserting that Hamas had been degraded to such a point that it could no longer carry out an October 7-like attack again, Biden described a three-stage proposal that would ultimately result in a “full and complete ceasefire” and the release of the hostages.

“It’s time for this war to end,” the president said.

Immediately after Biden detailed the Israeli proposal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that his country would not end the war until Hamas was defeated.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, convened for the first time last month an in-person meeting of ambassadors and chiefs of mission representing countries whose citizens were taken hostage by Hamas, CNN reported, at a moment when a deal was stalled.

During that in-person meeting in Washington, the group discussed ideas to secure the release of the hostages in Gaza, with a particular focus on ways that they could speak more as a collective group in both public and private settings. The ambassadors and chief of missions gathered with Sullivan had brainstormed ways to exert pressure on the negotiating parties – including Israel, Egypt and Qatar – to return to the negotiating table and finalize a ceasefire agreement, sources told CNN at the time.

Senior US officials including CIA Director Bill Burns and White House Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk have also returned to the Middle East this week in an effort to add traction to the ceasefire negotiations.

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