Israel calls on EU to help stop weapons smuggling into Gaza
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visited Israel Wednesday and was told by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that if Europe wanted Israel to lift its siege of the Gaza Strip, it had to help halt the flow of weapons into the territory, dpa reported.
"If you want to bring about an end to the siege of the Gaza Strip, you have to take responsibility and set up a strong, genuine and effective force to stop weapons smuggling," Lieberman said, according to a communique put out by his office after he met with Ashton Wednesday night.
He said the siege had been imposed because of the "ceaseless" smuggling of weapons - which were used against Israel - into the strip, mainly though tunnels running under the closed border between Gaza and Egypt.
"I can assure you that the moment the weapons smuggling to Gaza stops, the siege will be lifted," he said.
Ashton will hold two days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
An EU statement described her visit as taking place "to confirm the commitment of the European Union to the peace process, and to reiterate the need for the opening of crossings into Gaza in order to allow for its reconstruction and economic recovery."
Prior to her visit, Ashton noted that "urgent progress is now needed towards a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, and the European Union will continue to support all efforts towards that goal."
She discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process with Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, in a meeting before her talks with Lieberman.
Livni also focused on Iran's nuclear drive, and urged the EU to adopt a "resolute" position, "so that Iran understands that the world will no longer accept Teheran's shuffling around and lagging in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons."
Israel regards Iran as its biggest existential threat, given Tehran's ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons and repeated statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders that the Jewish state should be wiped off the map.