EU's Spanish presidency urges 'strong, joint' Gaza position
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency, called Saturday for a "strong, joint EU position" on Gaza and Israel's blockade.
"We want to forge a strong, joint EU position towards what happened in Gaza and the humanitarian situation in that area," he said after talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.
Zapatero said his foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, would propose to his EU colleagues at a meeting on Monday that the 27-nation bloc "clearly declare itself in favour of ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip."
Moratinos said in a television interview this week that the ministers would discuss "a plan for lifting the blockade" in order to "ensure the entry" of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people.
A draft text prepared for the ministers meeting in Luxembourg said Israel's blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza is "unacceptable and counterproductive, including from the point or view of Israel's security."
The ministers are to take into account the security concerns of Israel, which fears that arms and other military materials could be smuggled in with legitimate aid.
So the EU will call for the opening of borders under a "new mechanism" with a list of prohibited goods and "strict control over the destination of imported and exported merchandise," according to the text.
Abbas said that he is "satisfied with the EU's role and political position" on Gaza.
The Palestinian leader characterised his talks this week in Washington with US President Barack Obama as constructive, which focused on US-facilitated indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Zapatero said "we hope... that with the efforts of President Obama we will be able within a reasonable time to move to direct dialogue and negotiations" between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The last round of direct negotiations between the two sides collapsed in December 2008 when Israel launched a devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip in a bid to halt Palestinian rocket fire aimed at Israeli towns
© 2010 AFP