Israel cool to plan for EU checks at Gaza borders

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Israel is reluctant to grant European Union oversight of Gaza-bound ships in the wake of the Jewish state's raid on an aid flotilla, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

Israel's response to the EU proposal is "rather negative," Kouchner told reporters in Montreal on Wednesday at the International Economic Forum of the Americas.

Kouchner has said the EU could defuse tensions around Gaza by checking the cargo on ships bound for the tiny Palestinian coastal enclave as well as the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into the Hamas-controlled territory.

Providing further details of the proposal made last week, the French diplomatic chief said the checks could take place in Cyprus, which, unlike Gaza, has a deepwater port. Cargo could also be unloaded in the Israeli port of Ashdod.

"This would simplify the checks," he added, though acknowledging the plan "is not a success for now."

According to Kouchner, there would also be a list of banned products, but not a blanket ban on merchandise delivered to the Palestinians.

He expressed pessimism for the Rafah proposal, saying "it's not certain this would work because our Egyptian friends do not want us to speak directly with Hamas."

But Kouchner said he believed the deadlock would "end one way or another" and that a whole range of proposals should be offered so that one eventually succeeds.

© 2010 AFP

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