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CIA director expected to meet with Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari negotiators to push for hostage deal

<i>(Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/AP)</i><br/>CIA Director Bill Burns listens to testimony during a House committee hearing March 8
(Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/AP)
CIA Director Bill Burns listens to testimony during a House committee hearing March 8

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

(CNN) — CIA Director Bill Burns is expected to meet in the coming days with Israel and Egypt’s intelligence chiefs and the Qatari prime minister to discuss a deal to secure the release of remaining hostages held by Hamas, according to a US official familiar with the plans.

The meetings with Mossad director David Barnea, Egyptian intelligence director Abbas Kamel and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani will come amid intensive discussions on the parameters of a new deal that would pair hostages’ release with a cessation in the fighting in Gaza.

The meetings are expected to occur in Europe, the official said. The CIA declined to comment.

Another top American official, White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk, has been in the Middle East this week to continue discussions on the release of hostages. McGurk has visited Cairo and Doha for the talks.

Egypt and Qatar have acted as key players in brokering with Hamas, including securing a temporary pause and hostage release in November.

The White House, which declined to confirm Burns’ meetings, said Thursday that ongoing hostage talks were “sober and serious.”

The Washington Post first reported Burns’ plans.

Burns and McGurk’s discussions with regional players come amid tensions between Israel and Qatar over a leaked recording said to be of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizing Qatar.

On the recording, which aired on Israeli television, a voice purportedly Netanyahu’s describes Qatar as “problematic.” The speaker also says he is “very mad at the Americans” for renewing a lease on their military base in Qatar without extracting a concession on hostages from the country. CNN cannot verify that the voice on the leaked recording belongs to Netanyahu.

Responding to the tape, Qatar said Netanyahu was undermining mediation efforts in the Israel-Hamas war.

The White House said it remains focused on securing a release of hostages, including in discussions with Israel and Qatar, after the leaked recording.

“I don’t think I’m gonna comment on leaked comments attributed to another foreign leader,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One.

He said efforts on striking a hostage deal — which have included Qatar as a mediator — would proceed apace.

“The Israeli people want their loved ones back, we want to make sure we get our American hostages back to their families where they belong,” Kirby said. “There is a lot of energy being put at this across the region, with our Israeli counterparts as well as our other counterparts, including the Qataris. And we’re just going to keep working at that.”

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