( dpa ) - Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip is a "catastrophe," a senior Palestinian official said in an interview published in a German daily Tuesday.
Salam Fayyad, the acting prime minister under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Israeli response to the missiles from the Gaza Strip was "definitely disproportionate," although he acknowledged Israel's right to defend itself.
But he repeated the main problem in the conflict was the continued building by Israel of settlements on the West Bank.
"While we negotiate on the main points of conflict, Israel continues to extend settlements on the West Bank. That is the biggest problem," Fayyad told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Asked about US President George W Bush's new Middle East peace initiative, kicked off at the Annapolis conference in November last year, he said the talks between the Israelis and the Palestinian government could "theoretically" be concluded by December this year.
Fayyad acknowledged that his government had "absolutely no influence" over the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and he called for all militias, including Hamas and the Fatah al-Aqsa brigades controlled by Abbas to be disarmed.
But he warned against isolating Hamas entirely.
Fayyad is to visit Berlin Wednesday to meet Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.