EU stand urged to end Gaza siege
Spanish PM unveils plan to pressure Israel as he holds talks with Palestinian president.
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2010 21:14 GMT
Zapatero said he will push for EU negotiations with Israel over its Gaza blockade [AFP]

Jose Zapatero, the prime minister of Spain, has announced plans to call for a "strong, joint EU position" in ending Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Zapatero, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said Spain would urge negotiations with Israel to lift its restrictions on Gaza when European foreign ministers meet on Monday.

"[Foreign Affairs ] Minister [Miguel Angel] Moratinos will propose on Monday that the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union stands up for the end of the blockade on Gaza and that it extends all its political and diplomatic capacity to reach that goal," Zapatero said during a joint news conference with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, on Saturday.

Abbas' visit comes amid an international backlash against Israel after its forces boarded a Turkish aid ship headed for the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on May 31. Nine pro-Palestinian activists of Turkish origin were killed.

"We cannot announce from our side the independent Palestinian state, because we are committed to the agreements that we have made with Israel, and these agreements state that one party does not have right to do anything that is one-sided, that could effect the final results," Abbas said.

He said that he was "satisfied with the EU's role and political position" on Gaza.

Future state

The EU has been working with the Palestinian Authority to build up the institutions of a future democratic, independent and viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel and its neighbours.

These efforts are regularly debated by the EU Council of Ministers.

The EU is the biggest supplier of aid to the Palestinian territories, with member states and the executive European Commission providing about $720 million a year.

The European Union is pushing to free up trade with the territories.

Israel imposed the blockade when Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas' Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in 2007 after winning parliamentary elections.

Israel says the siege is designed to prevent arms being smuggled to Hamas and other armed groups.

Abbas now governs only the West Bank.

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