Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

'New York Post' slammed for publishing ISIS execution images

Read more

DEBATE

Back to Square One?

Read more

DEBATE

Israel-Gaza: Back to Square One?

Read more

DEBATE

Israel-Gaza conflict: 72-hour ceasefire deal sets stage for Cairo talks

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users divided over Darren Wilson

Read more

FOCUS

Spain's El Hierro to become world's first self-powered island

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

A bellwether for what not to do

Read more

ENCORE!

Luc Besson back in action with Scarlett Johansson in 'Lucy'

Read more

FOCUS

Israel's minorities and military service

Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

  • Brutal IS beheading video sparks social media pushback

    Read more

  • French village rallies behind besieged elderly British couple

    Read more

  • Netanyahu compares Hamas to IS, Gaza offensive to continue

    Read more

  • France’s ex-PM Juppé sets up presidential clash with Sarkozy

    Read more

  • France’s Hollande says global security ‘worst since 2001’

    Read more

  • France urges Iran, others in region, to join fight against IS

    Read more

  • A new view on Normandy landings, 70 years on

    Read more

  • Video: Dozens arrested despite smaller protests in Ferguson

    Read more

  • Dozens killed as landslides strike Japan’s Hiroshima

    Read more

  • Suspected Ebola cases in Austria, new drug raises hopes

    Read more

  • WWII anniversary highlights best - and worst - of Paris police

    Read more

  • Headscarf at the beach sparks French MEP’s fury

    Read more

  • Video: Life in under-siege Donetsk

    Read more

  • Racism, riots and police violence: USA under scrutiny

    Read more

Middle east

EU top diplomat makes Gaza visit to press for open borders

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-18

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visited Gaza on Sunday for the second time in four months to assess the partial lifting of the Israeli blockade and urge Israel to open its borders with the Hamas-ruled enclave.

AFP - The European Union's top diplomat Catherine Ashton called for the further easing of Israel's four-year blockade of the Gaza Strip during a visit to the impoverished Hamas-run enclave on Sunday.

"The answer here is opening the crossings," Ashton told reporters on her first visit since Israel's deadly May 31 seizure of a Gaza-bound aid fleet sparked international demands to lift the closure.

"People here recognise and understand the security needs of Israel," she said at a press conference held at a UN-run school for Palestinian refugees.

FRANCE 24's Gallagher Fenwick reports on Lady Ashton's visit to Gaza

"But that should not prevent the ability to be able to see the free flow of goods into and out of Gaza in order that houses can be rebuilt, children can go to fully functioning schools and businesses can flourish."

She said the European Union was willing to send monitors to help operate the crossings, but they would have to have a clear role and work alongside the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which Hamas drove out of Gaza in 2007.

She said, however, there was "no proposal on the table" to reopen Gaza's sole port.

At the height of the international uproar that followed the flotilla raid, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead, Israel said it would begin allowing all purely civilian goods into Gaza.

It said it would also allow building materials into the territory but only for internationally supervised projects and that its naval blockade would remain in place to keep the Islamist Hamas movement from importing military-grade rockets and other weapons.

The European Union welcomed the changes but has pressed Israel to allow for freer travel and the export of goods manufactured in Gaza, where the near-collapse of the private sector has spawned 40 percent unemployment.

"What we have today is 75 percent less (volume of traffic) than what we had in the first half of 2007... That's not what we are looking for," the Western-backed Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad said on Saturday.

"The economy of Gaza cannot be sustained only by importation. There needs to be exports," Fayyad told a joint press conference with Ashton.

Ashton was to press those concerns throughout her three-day Middle East trip, which also includes meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visiting US envoy George Mitchell and other officials.

She had no plans to meet anyone from Hamas, which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by the West because of its refusal to recognise Israel and its commitment to armed struggle.

In Gaza, Ashton visited the UN-run school, which now serves as a summer camp, as well as factories damaged during a devastating Israeli offensive at the turn of 2009.

She was also to visit local businesses co-financed by the EU through its private sector reconstruction programme and a school for the deaf.

The British baroness was named last year as the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, a new position that was created to give the 27-nation bloc a single voice on the world stage.

Her visit came as Mitchell held a sixth round of indirect peace talks between Israel and the West Bank Palestinian leadership in a bid to relaunch direct talks suspended after the Gaza war erupted in December 2008.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has thus far rejected US and Israeli demands for direct talks, insisting that the two sides first make progress on the thorny issues of final borders and security.

Israel first imposed its blockade on Gaza in June 2006 after Hamas and other militants captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a deadly cross-border raid. The 23-year-old is still being held at a secret location.

The sanctions were tightened a year later when Hamas seized power after driving Abbas's forces out in a week of fierce street clashes.

Date created : 2010-07-18

  • EGYPT

    Red Crescent to transfer aid ship cargo over border into Gaza

    Read more

  • PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

    Deadly Israeli shelling hits Gaza neighbourhood

    Read more

  • MIDDLE EAST

    Israeli warships shadow Gaza-bound Libyan aid boat

    Read more

COMMENT(S)