Britain welcomes Israel's plans to ease Gaza blockade
Britain on Sunday welcomed Israel's announcement of its plans to ease its Gaza blockade, hailing "an important step in the right direction."
"I welcome today's announcement on Israel's intentions to ease restrictions on Gaza," said Foreign Secretary William Hague.
"This evening I spoke to Quartet representative Tony Blair. We both agreed that this marks an important step in the right direction."
His comments came after Israel on Sunday said it would allow all strictly "civilian" goods into Gaza while preventing weapons and certain dual-use items from entering the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.
The new policy is a response to mounting calls to ease Israel's four-year siege on the coastal enclave after Israeli forces killed nine activists during a May 31 raid on a flotilla of aid ships attempting to run the blockade.
The decision was formally announced following a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who has been spearheading discussions on easing the closures.
Israel's decision to ease the blockade was first made public on Thursday but more detail was given on Sunday by government spokesman Mark Regev.
In a statement, Hague urged the changes to be brought in swiftly to help "revive Gaza's economy, while continuing to meet Israel's legitimate security concerns."
"Israel's long-term interests lie in creating an environment where Gaza's economy can flourish. The test now is how the new policy will be carried out."
© 2010 AFP