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EU envoy urges Israel to ease off further on Gaza

world Updated: Jul 18, 2010 14:52 IST

Reuters
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Israel should ease its Gaza blockade further and allow Palestinians to resume exports from the territory, the European Union's foreign policy chief said on Sunday during a visit to the Hamas-controlled enclave.

"The position of the EU 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," Catherine Ashton told a news conference.

Israel relaxed its land blockade of the Gaza Strip, where its Islamist Hamas enemy rules, after an international outcry over its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31. But it still bans exports from the territory.

Ashton said she would discuss the issue later in the day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"At the moment, there is no proposal on the table to open a port," she said. "The best option seems to be, and that is the most supported by Palestinians, is to open the land crossings, and that's what we're working on."

In Gaza, Ashton visited UN facilities and was due to meet local businessmen. She had no plans to see leaders of Hamas, which the EU and the United States regard as a terrorist organisation.

It was her second visit to the Gaza Strip in four months.