Abbas tells Mitchell Gaza blockade must fully end, official says
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated to U.S. peace envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell on Friday that the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip must be completely lifted, a senior Palestinian official said, Xinhua reported.
Mitchell arrived in Ramallah on Friday and immediately held a meeting with Abbas during which Abbas called on Mitchell to end the three-year Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told a news briefing at the end of the meeting.
"In his talks with Mitchell, President Abbas focused on the basic points, mainly meeting the basic needs of the Gaza Strip population and to stop using these needs as swords directed at our people's necks," said Erekat.
Erekat added that President Abbas had also told Mitchell that the Gaza Strip products must reach the West Bank and vice versa, " and called on the U.S. and the international community to exert efforts to achieve it."
"For President Abbas, the blockade is a collective punishment and there is no justification to keep it. There are six commercial crossing points at Gaza Strip borders all of which should be reopened," said Erekat.
Abbas also told Mitchell that within the first three months of 2007, around 36,000 trucks loaded with products and goods entered the Gaza Strip, while in the last three months of this year, only 3,600 trucks were allowed.
"The question is not related to easing the blockade, this is not enough, President Abbas wants a 100 percent end of the blockade," said Erekat.
He also said that Abbas and Mitchell agreed to continue talks with the U.S. administration, adding that "there are contacts also with the European Union on this issue."
Asked about the Jewish settlement, Erekat said that Abbas discussed with Mitchell the recent Israeli decision to build 1,600 units in the settlement of Ramat Shalom in occupied East Jerusalem.
"Mitchell reiterated that the commitment given to the Palestinian side that there will be no construction of settlements is still valid and is not retreated," said Erekat.
The United States proposed a four-month proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians after it failed to bridge the gap of disputes between the two sides, following the Israeli decision to expand settlements.
The Palestinians demand Israel to completely halt all settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and resume the talks on final status issues that end with the establishment of an independent Palestinians state.