Israel must go beyond easing its blockade of Gaza and throw
open its long-closed border, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said.
Lady Ashton urged the international community to pressure
Israel to end the blockade. She is the most senior Western official to go to
Gaza since Israel partly eased curbs on goods entering the territory. Israel
tightened its blockade in 2007 after the Islamist Hamas movement seized control
Lady Ashton did not have any official meetings with Hamas,
the Islamist movement that controls Gaza. Its authority is not recognised by
the EU, Israel or the US, who describe it as a terrorist organisation.
She went on to the nearby Israeli town of Sderot, which has
been regularly targeted by Palestinian rocket attacks.
Her three-day visit to the region comes as peace envoy
George Mitchell holds further talks between Israel and West Bank Palestinians
in an attempt to restart direct negotiations. “The position of the European
Union is very clear: that we want the opportunity for people to be able to move
around freely or to see goods, not only coming into Gaza but exports coming out
of Gaza,” Baroness Ashton said on her second visit to Gaza in six months.
“And that is the position that we will be discussing with
the Israeli government, as well as of course making sure that we’re putting the
right kind of pressure out to the international community.”
Public Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said he hoped that after her visit, Lady
Ashton would understand “that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”