EU ready to help Israel ease Gaza embargo, Ashton says
The European Union is ready to support Israel's stated intention to ease the embargo on the Gaza Strip with a mission on the ground, the bloc's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Thursday, DPA reported.
After being stung by international criticism for the nine dead resulting from the late May strike on a flotilla bringing in aid to the Palestinian territory, Israel decided to let more "civilian goods" into the Strip, while maintaining restrictions on combat equipment.
"I look with great interest at what the Israeli cabinet is saying. This is an in-principle statement ... obviously the detail is what matters," Ashton said in Brussels, on the margins of an EU leaders' meeting.
She said she would meet with EU experts in Brussels on Friday "to see what we can offer."
EU foreign ministers on Monday discussed getting the bloc involved in the monitoring of border crossings to Gaza to reassure Israel that no weapons would be smuggled to the benefit of Hamas, the radical Islamist outfit ruling Gaza.
"We've made the offer. We have asked if (the Israelis) will consider it. We'll see what they come back and say," Ashton said, stressing that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) - the only Palestinian organisation with international recognition - should also be involved in the exercise.
That would require Hamas making peace with the PA. Ashton said on Friday she would also meet Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Friday to support his inter-Palestinian reconciliation efforts.