Quartet asks Israel to implement easing of Gaza blockade

Quartet asks Israel to implement easing of Gaza blockade

The Middle East diplomatic group Monday asked Israel to fully implement its decision to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip, dpa reported.

A statement issued by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia - the diplomatic group known as the quartet - called for Israel to elaborate the details of its new policy, which was announced last week after Israel was criticized for its military intervention to stop the humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza on May 31. Nine people in the flotilla were killed in the incident.

"Full and effective implementation will comprise a significant shift in strategy towards meeting the needs of Gaza's population for humanitarian and commercials goods," the statement said.

It said other needs include civilian reconstruction and infrastructure, economic activities and Israel's security. The statement asked Israel to carry out its decision "as quickly as possible."

The quartet said it will closely monitor the easing of the blockade "in all its aspects." Israel closed crossings into Gaza and mounted a sea blockade three years ago after militant Hamas won election to rule Gaza and its 1.5 million inhabitants.

The statement said the quartet will also "actively explore additional ways to improve the situation in Gaza, encourage involvement of the Palestinian Authority at the crossings and promote greater commerce between the West Bank and Gaza."

The quartet renewed support for Israel's legitimate security concerns as well as Palestinians' rights of movement and access to commercial goods. It pledged to work with Israel and the international community to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza.

In a reference to the flotilla incident, the quartet called on organizations that want to deliver goods to Gaza to do so "through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza."

"The quartet emphasizes that there is no need for unnecessary confrontations and calls on all parties to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza," the statement said.

The quartet, which has tried to maintain a balance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, also called for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas militants four years ago on Saturday.

The quartet "condemns" Hamas' violations of international obligations to let the International Committee of the Red Cross visit Shalit. It called for Hamas to allow such a visit.

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