Israel May Allow Ban, Ashton into Gaza

Israel says it would facilitate the visit of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton to the besieged Gaza Strip.

A statement by Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said the decision came in response to a request by Ban and Ashton but it did not specify when the two leaders might visit Gaza.

This is while Israel prevented a delegation of European MPs from travelling to the blockaded coastal strip last December.

Ashton took the news with a grain of doubt, though.

"It is true that the Israeli government has so far reacted positively to this request. We are continuing to work on the final program for the trip and are continuing to talk with the Israeli government in relation to this," her spokesman said in Strasbourg.

In February, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, however, made a visit to the region to become the first European diplomat who managed to get in the sliver via Egypt.

Witnessing the plight of the impoverished Palestinians there, Martin called the Israeli blockade of Gaza inhumane and unacceptable.

European Union High Representative of Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton is expected to arrive in the Middle East next week and is scheduled to visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

On March 19, Ban is expected to take part in a meeting of the International Quartet on the Middle East in Moscow. He is then to visit the region at the end of the month, ahead of his participation in the Arab League summit in Libya.

Gaza has been under more than two years of paralyzing Israeli blockade which has been in place even after Tel Aviv’s military offensive against the populated costal enclave last January, which left more than 1,400 people killed.

Gaza’s infrastructure devastated in the three-week onslaught prompted the UN and other human rights groups to urge Israel to put an end to the "collective punishment" of some 1.5 million Palestinians in the region and allow construction materials and humanitarian aid into the strip.

(Press TV)

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