Qatar’s emir to discuss Gaza and hostages with Macron during a state visit to France

The start of Ramadan is seen as an unofficial deadline for a cease-fire

France Qatar talks French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace as part of a two day state visit in Paris | Reuters

Qatar's emir begins a state visit to France on Tuesday as his country plays a key role in ongoing diplomatic efforts to achieve a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of hostages.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is to meet with President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee presidential palace.

The meeting comes as negotiators from the United States, Egypt and Qatar have been working to broker a cease-fire deal in which Hamas would free some of the dozens of hostages it holds in exchange for Israel's release of Palestinian prisoners and a six-week halt in the fighting.

US President Joe Biden said on Monday that Israel would be willing to pause its war on Hamas in Gaza during the upcoming Islamic holy month of Ramadan if a deal is reached to release some of the hostages held by the militants.

Israeli officials said Biden's comments came as a surprise and were not made in coordination with the country's leadership. A Hamas official played down any sense of progress, saying the group wouldn't soften its demands.

Negotiations were continuing Tuesday in Qatar.

The start of Ramadan, which is expected to be around March 10, is seen as an unofficial deadline for a cease-fire. The month is a time of heightened religious observance and dawn-to-dusk fasting for hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world.

Roughly 130 hostages remain in Gaza, but Israel says about a quarter of them are dead.

France and Qatar mediated a deal in January for the shipment of medicine for dozens of hostages held by Hamas. Qatar authorities said last week that Hamas has started delivering the medication.

On Tuesday evening, Qatar's emir is to be the guest of honour at a state dinner at the presidential palace. It is his first state visit to France since his accession to the throne in 2013.

The aim of the visit is to deepen cooperation between France and Qatar, especially in defense and security, Macron's office said.

On Wednesday, the prime ministers of Qatar and France will chair an economic forum to boost investments in sectors such as artificial intelligence, health, green technologies, transport and tourism.


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