JERUSALEM: The exiled head of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, said “positive contacts” have been made towards securing a long-term truce with Israel, in a video posted Friday on an Arab website. Meshaal’s comments posted by pan-Arab news website Al-Arabi Al-Jadid were the first by a leader of Hamas, which does not recognise the Jewish state, to openly confirm such contacts with Israel. Israel itself has denied any direct or indirect contacts with the Islamist militant movement which rules Gaza and with which it fought a devastating summer war in 2014.

“So far the contacts seem positive. But so far we haven’t reached any agreement. We cannot say today that we have something in our hand. There are only discussions,” Meshaal said. “The question is how to resolve the Gaza problem? We are open to all efforts: Palestinian, Arab, Islamic, regional and international... But this will not occur at the expense of the unity of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” he said.

On Tuesday, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority accused Hamas of holding secret talks with Israel that would endorse the separation of the Palestinian territories. Arab and Turkish media have carried reports, picked up by Israeli media, of talks aimed at reaching an eight- or 10-year truce in return for Israel lifting its blockade on Gaza. “There have been negotiations and they are on the verge of reaching an agreement about a truce of eight to 10 years,” Palestinian foreign minister Riad al-Malki said. “There are mediators who are doing their utmost to reach this agreement,” he said. The Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Hamas’s rival, said ex-British prime minister and former international Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair was acting as a mediator.