Italy cool to French call for EU checks at Gaza borders

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Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Tuesday gave a cool response to a French call for the European Union to take charge of the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into the Gaza Strip.

Frattini, speaking in Berlin after talks with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle, noted that the Palastinian movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, had in the past ended EU checks carried out at the border.

"The EU has already assumed control of border checks for a time, for example at Rafah," he said.

"The condition (this time) would be that the two sides would have to agree to it."

Westerwelle did not comment on the proposal.

Spain, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, has said it will unveil a proposal to lift the Israeli blockade of Gaza after the deadly raid on an aid flotilla in international waters last week.

On Sunday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the EU could defuse tensions around Gaza by checking the cargo on ships bound for the Strip as well as the Rafah crossing point.

After talks with Kouchner, British Foreign Secretary William Hague also spoke of how the EU could "help as it has in the past" by ensuring that a flow of needed aid and economic assistance reaches Gaza, while at the same time addressing Israel's concerns that weapons are not coming into the territory.

Hamas said Tuesday it was "not opposed" to European monitoring of Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt or Gaza-bound ships.

© 2010 AFP

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