GAZA - DIPLOMACY

European leaders in Jerusalem to strengthen Gaza truce

Five European heads of state and government have met Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to discuss the situation in Gaza. They offered assistance in the struggle against arms smuggling in the region.

Advertising

Five European leaders flew into Israel late on Sunday for a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after a summit in Egypt about the war-torn Gaza Strip.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek were all due to dine with Olmert in Jerusalem to discuss the situation in Gaza after Israel called a halt to a 22-day offensive in the Palestinian territory.

"We are not interested in staying in the Gaza Strip; we want to leave as quickly as possible," Olmert said at a press conference with the European leaders.

Merkel called the halt in fighting a "window of opportunity" in terms of achieving a "lasting peace" between Israel and the Palestinians.

"There's no alternative to a two-state solution," Merkel said. "Everyone must back the right of Israel to live as a Jewish state, just as everyone must recognise the Palestinians' right to a Palestinian state."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed Israel's ceasefire but said: "This is only a first step, it must go further."

Brown urged Israel to reopen crossings into Gaza.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning