EU foreign policy chief says pressure mounting for lifting of Gaza blockadeBy Slobodan Lekic, AP
Monday, June 14, 2010
EU: Pressure mounts for end of Gaza blockade
LUXEMBOURG — EU officials said Monday there were indications Israel may agree to relax its blockade of Gaza by opening at least one border crossing to large-scale commercial traffic.
EU diplomats also said Israel would likely drop its restrictive list of goods permitted into the region, which has left the territory’s 1.5 million Palestinians mired in poverty.
Instead, there would be a short, agreed list of items banned because of Israeli security concerns, the diplomats said on the condition that they not be named because of the sensitivity of the talks.
One diplomat said that while no final decisions had been made, there were positive indications that Israel might be willing to open either the Karni or the Kerem Shalom border crossings for large-scale imports into Gaza. The diplomat said Israel rejected a proposal for cargo to be delivered by ships checked in a third location such as Cyprus.
The Karni and Kerem Shalom crossings have been open for humanitarian goods for the past few years.
Israeli security officials have said talks are now under way to replace the Israeli supervision with an international presence, with the involvement of the Palestinians and the Egyptians.
Officials in Luxembourg said this would somehow also likely involve the EU in some manner, and that the bloc would probably bear the costs of the operation.
“The most important part of what we can do is to try and provide support to actually get the crossings open and to … help people rebuild their homes, to provide for businesses, to try to support everyday things,” EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said.
“We should be ready to assist at any time with the policy of the crossings and whatever else we can do to assist,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
The European Union has reacted strongly to the May 31 Israeli commando raid that resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists.
The 27-nation bloc has been pressing Israel to ease its three-year old blockade, which EU foreign ministers described as “unacceptable and counterproductive” in a draft statement released Monday.
International mediator Tony Blair will brief EU foreign ministers at a summit beginning Thursday.
Spain, which holds the rotating EU chairmanship, said Saturday it would propose the bloc exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel to end the closure.
Associated Press Writer Eileen Shim contributed to this report.
Tags: Blockades, Europe, Foreign Policy, Gaza Strip, Gaza-blockade, Israel, Luxembourg, Middle East, Palestinian Territories, Territorial Disputes, Western Europe