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G8 leaders criticise Gaza blockade
Concerns also expressed over growing tensions on the Korean peninsula, Iran and Afghanistan.
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2010 03:57 GMT
G8 leaders called the Gaza blockade "unsustainable" [AFP]

The leaders of the world's eight richest nations have called for Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip to be relaxed in order to allow more aid to reach the civilian population of the beleagured coastal territory.

G8 leaders meeting in Canada issued a wide ranging statement on Saturday, addressing global security concerns ranging from Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip to the situation in Afghanistan and concerns over Iran's nuclear programme.

After two days of talks in the Canadian town of Huntsville, the leaders said that the Gaza blockade was "not sustainable" and "must be changed".

Their statement welcomed the Israeli government's recent plan to partially ease the blockade, and called for it to be put in place immediately.

"We urge full and effective implementation of this policy in order to address the needs of Gaza's population for humanitarian and commercial goods, civilian reconstruction and infrastructure, and legitimate economic activity."

Afghan responsibility

The G8 are comprised of the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan.

On Afghanistan, the G8 leaders said that Afghan government forces must make progress towards assuming more responsibilty for the security of the country "within five years".

They also called on the Afghan government to "combat corruption, address illicit drug production and trafficking, improve human rights, improve provision of basic services and governance and make concrete progress to reinforce the formal justice system".

The communique called for Iran to hold a "transparant dialogue" over its controversial nuclear enrichment programme.

"We are profoundly concerned by Iran's continued lack of transparency regarding its nuclear activities and its stated intention to continue and expand enriching uranium, including to nearly 20 per cent," the statement said.

"The crisis has jeopardised advancement toward meeting some of the 2015 targets"

G8 summit communique

"Our goal is to persuade Iran's leaders to engage in a transparent dialogue about its nuclear activities and to meet Iran's international obligations."

The leaders also noted efforts by Turkey and Brazil to broker a deal with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear programme.

The leaders also condemned the sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on North Korea.

"We deplore the attack on March 26 that caused the sinking of the Republic of Korea's naval vessel, the Cheonan, resulting in tragic loss of 46 lives," the statement said.

"We condemn, in this context, the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan. We demand that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea  refrain from committing any attacks or threatening hostilities against the Republic of Korea."

Economic challenges

The G8 leaders also addressed the economic challenges facing the world, warning that the recovery was still fragile and that the economic crisis had compromised Millenium Development Goals set by the UN. 

"The crisis has jeopardised advancement toward meeting some of the 2015 targets. Renewed mutual commitments are required," their communique said, warning that "both developed and developing countries must do more".

The Millennium Development Goals were agreed by UN member states as a list of human development targets due to be met by 2015, reducing poverty and hunger, boosting women and children's rights and improving education.

The statement came a day after the G8 pledged $5bn in aid over five years to reduce deaths among mothers and newborn children in Africa. That amount is nowhere near the ambitious promise from five years ago to double aid by up to $50 billion by 2010.

The G8 noted Brazil's efforts to engage Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme [AFP]

The G8 summit now morphs into a larger G20 meeting that will include leaders from the emerging economies.

Discussions at the G20 summit are expected to be dominated by contentious economic issues, particularly over whether to cut or spend their way to economic recovery.

Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Toronto, said that economic divisions would dominate the meeting.

"What we can expect from this larger grouping is whether they can get past their divisions. When it comes to global finances we are seeing a big split, particularly between the US and Europe."

The US supports continued economic stimulus spending to galvanise the recovery, but European countries are facing a sovereign debt crisis that is squeezing national budgets and prompting governments to make severe cuts in spending. 

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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