Germany's top diplomat says Gaza blockade 'unacceptable'
The Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip only serves to strengthen extremists, Germany's top diplomat said on Monday, urging Israel to allow exports from the impoverished territory.
"It is not acceptable to blockade 1.5 million people in Gaza," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters on a brief visit to the Hamas-run territory.
The blockade "strengthens the radicals and weakens the moderates and the opposite is what we should be doing," he said of the measure, which has been eased by Israel in recent months but still remains in place.
"It is important that imports and exports are allowed through again," he said, stressing that this was also the position of the European Union.
Westerwelle's comments were made during a visit to the Sheikh Ajleen sewage treatment plant, just south of Gaza City, which is being redeveloped with a 20-million-euro (28-million-dollar) grant from German development bank KfW.
"Gaza must not and will not be forgotten by us," he said, pledging that Berlin would continue to help the territory, which suffered huge damage to its core infrastructure during a bloody 22-day Israeli offensive in the winter of 2008-9.
Israel first imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2006 after militants there kidnapped an Israeli soldier, and tightened it a year later when Hamas seized power in the coastal strip.
International pressure in the wake of a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May forced Israel to significantly ease terms of the blockade and allow in everything except arms or goods which could be used to create weapons or build fortifications.
However, Israel still maintains a tight naval blockade on the beleaguered strip and does not allow exports from Gaza.
© 2010 AFP