Baroness Ashton told easing blockade not enough

By Jennifer Lipman, July 19, 2010
Baroness Ashton

Baroness Ashton

A group of non governmental organisations have written to the EU High Representative claiming that Israel’s decision to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip is not enough to rebuild the area’s economy.

The 19 organisations, including Amnesty International UK, Christian Aid, and War Child UK, asked Catherine Ashton to press for restrictions on Gaza to be lifted completely.

The letter, sent as Baroness Ashton visited Gaza and Israel, called on Israel to totally end the ban on exports from Gaza, allow free movement of people and ensure access to Gaza’s agricultural land and fishing grounds.

The writers said: “Securing clear commitments on these issues – rather than only the implementation of the announced changes – should now be a top priority.

“The EU should also work to ensure that they are central to the strategy of the whole Middle East Quartet.”

But the writers admitted that Israel’s decision last month to allow more civilian goods into Gaza represented “steps forward”.

Israel and Gaza will next come under discussion at an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on July 26.

Baroness Ashton’s three-day trip has included time in the southern town of Sderot to see damage caused by rockets fired from Gaza, and talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem. She has also met the parents of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

She called on Hamas to release him “without delay” and demanded that Red Cross representatives be allowed to visit him immediately.

Last updated: 9:44am, July 20 2010