EU’s Ashton says Israel must open all Gaza border crossings 16Jul10 July 17, 2010

Haaretz -  16 July 2010

The European Union urges Israel to open all Gaza border crossings, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said Friday, ahead of her planned three-day visit to the region.

“We stand ready to support the opening of the Gaza crossings for the traffic of goods to and from Gaza,” Ashton said before departing for Israel.

Referring to a recent cabinet decision to lift the ban on some of the products which Isrtael previously prohibited from entering the Strip, Ashton said the EU “welcomed the announcements made by Israel following the flotilla incident and are now awaiting their implementation.”

“The European Union has been calling for an urgent and fundamental change of policy regarding the closure of Gaza,” Ashton continued.

During her visit, Ashton will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leadership – including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, as well as the Quartet’s special envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair.

Ashton also reportedly plans to visit UNRWA projects sites in Gaza on Sunday.

In its statement the PMO emphasized that the change would not counter Israel’s policy “to defend it citizens against terror, rocket fire or any other hostile activities from Gaza.”

Late last month, Israel approved a loosening in its blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, with the highlight of the new policy being the fact that only weapons or “dual-use” materials that could be used to manufacture weapons will be on the list. Any item not on the list will be permitted into Gaza.

Large quantities of building materials are to be brought in for projects with PA approval such as schools, clinics and water and sewage infrastructure. Building materials for homes in Khan Yunis and other Gazan towns will also be allowed in.

All construction projects are to be under close UN supervision to ensure that Hamas does not use the building material for fortifications and bunkers.

“Israel seeks to keep out of Gaza weapons and material that Hamas uses to prepare and carry out terror and rocket attacks toward Israel and its civilians,” Netanyahu said. “All other goods will be allowed into Gaza.”

Lieberman wants Gaza as independent entity

Ma’an News Agency  -  16 July 2010

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman plans to absolve Israel of responsibility for Gaza, Israeli press reported Friday.

Lieberman reportedly intends the move to achieve the international recognition the 2005 unilateral pullout from Gaza – when Israeli forces removed 21 settlements and thousands of soldiers from the enclave – was envisioned as. Israel’s continued presence on Gaza’s land and sea borders as well as airspace, prevented the international community from recognizing an end to the occupation.

The Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said Friday, that in closed meetings, Lieberman said he plans to shift his focus from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah to relations with the Gaza government, stating that nothing should be expected from direct talks with President Mahmoud Abbas.

With European assistance, the report said, Israel’s Foreign Minister plans to lift the siege on Gaza, and allow the coastal enclave to function as a fully independent entity, and added that under the plan, the enclave’s borders with Israel would be hermetically sealed.

The report continued that Israel will allow ships to dock in Gaza following inspection at ports in Greece and Cyprus. European countries will be allowed to implement projects to improve the lives of residents of the Strip, such as a power plant, a desalination plant and a wastewater purification plant.

Lieberman will present his plan to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton during her scheduled visit to Israel next week, Ynet reported.

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