Blair: Gaza blockade to be eased within days

The world must give “hope, help and prospects” to the people of Gaza, Tony Blair insisted today.

Emerging from talks with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, the former British Prime Minister repeated his belief that the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip will be eased within days.

The key, he said, was an agreement to change from a situation in which Israel operates a limited list of permitted goods allowed through border crossings into Gaza, to a prohibited list of goods – weapons and “combat material” – which are not.

“After my talks (with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), there is now in principle a commitment by Israel to move to such a list,” he said.

That would mean Israel maintaining the existing blockade to keep out arms while allowing in building materials and foodstuffs essential to normal daily life, Mr Blair said.

The change would simplify access for non-military goods, “rather than people struggling to get household items and foodstuffs in, rather than them having to fight over almost every bit of construction material”.

The former UK prime minister and current Middle East envoy added: “Most of all we must give the people of Gaza some hope, some help and some prospects.

“I believe and hope that we can reach a situation where we get a policy with regard to Gaza which is right regarding security, and regarding the people of Gaza and which gives the people of Gaza eventually the prospects of joining a two-state solution.”

Baroness Ashton, European High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said EU governments were ready to send monitors to help police border crossings as part of any Israeli decision to ease access.

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