Egypt's foreign minister announced here an agreement between Israel and Hamas to begin a cease fire in Gaza at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

"Egypt has made great efforts ... since the start of the latest escalation in the Gaza Strip," Mohammed Kamel Amr said at a joint press conference in Cairo with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"These efforts and contacts have resulted in understandings to cease fire and restore calm and halt the bloodshed that the last period has seen," the minister continued.

Amr vowed that Egypt will continue its efforts to find "a global and just solution in the region" that that it will also work to put an end to intra-Palestinian division.

"Egypt calls on all to monitor the implementation of what has been agreed under Egypt's sponsorship and to guarantee the commitment of all the parties to what has been agreed," the foreign minister said.

Meanwhile, the head of U.S. diplomacy emphasized the role of the new Egyptian government of President Mohammed Morsi in the negotiations, and she thanked the Islamist leader for "his personal leadership."

"This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt's new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone for regional stability and peace," Clinton said.

There is "no alternative" to a quest for a wider, permanent peace between Israel and the Palestinians, according to Washington's top diplomat, who over the past few hours met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian National Authority head Mahmoud Abbas and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. EFE