Israel to allow UN chief Ban, EU envoy Ashton to enter Gaza
Israel will allow United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to enter the Gaza Strip when they each make Mideast visits later this month, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said late Monday, dpa reported.
The ministry said that the authorization for Ban and Ashton to enter Gaza was issued in response to "special requests" by the two diplomats.
"Israel has decided to facilitate their entry to the Gaza Strip in order to allow them to get a first-hand impression of humanitarian activities taking place in that area," the ministry said.
Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, has announced plans to travel to the region starting Sunday.
Ban is scheduled to meet on March 27 in Libya with the League of Arab States, with plans to urge the group to support an early resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Israel has largely blockaded the Gaza Strip since 2008, when the Islamist militant group Hamas seized control of the densely populated coastal territory. Recently, Israel refused to allow Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin to enter Gaza from Israeli territory.