Rice: Gaza must not stay closed

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the United States wants to make sure that the Gaza Strip is not kept sealed after Israel's planned withdrawal from the territory.

    Condoleezza Rice and Mahmoud Abbas met on Saturday

    After meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, Rice said both sides needed to do more to coordinate details of the pullout. She praised Abbas' moves to ensure security but said more needed to be done.

    In Rice's clearest words to date on what the United States expects after the withdrawal, she said the territory had to have open access to the outside world and a link to the West Bank, the other occupied territory Palestinians want for a state.

    "When the Israelis withdraw from Gaza, it cannot be sealed or isolated ... with the Palestinian people closed in after the withdrawal," Rice told a news conference.

    "We are committed to connectivity between Gaza and the West Bank, and we are committed to openness and freedom of movement for the Palestinian people," she said.

    Answers needed

    Palestinians have expressed concern that after the withdrawal, Israel will retain control over entry to the Gaza Strip.

    "The two sides both have responsibilities to make this coordinated withdrawal work"

    Condoleezza Rice
    US secretary of state

    Abbas has also said the Israelis need to do more to coordinate on the withdrawal.

    "Both sides need to provide answers to each other," Rice said. "The two sides both have responsibilities to make this coordinated withdrawal work."

    The United States hopes that the withdrawal will help revive negotiations on a "road map" for a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.
    Rice reiterated that the United States was committed to making sure there was a stop to Israeli settlement activity.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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