Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu met Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair on Friday in an
attempt to garner support for Israel`s continued blockade of
the Gaza Strip, officials said.
"The aim of the meeting was to enlist international
support for the principle that weapons and material used to
support fighting will not enter Gaza for Hamas," Netanyahu`s
office said in a statement.
The move came as international opposition to the border
closures surged in the wake of Israel`s seizure of an activist
aid flotilla last week, during which naval commandos shot dead
nine Turkish activists.
Amid mounting pressure Israel has indicated a willingness
to ease restrictions on other goods allowed into Gaza, and the
statement said Israel wanted "humanitarian and civilian goods
to reach the residents by other means."
Blair, Britain`s former prime minister and the
representative of the quartet -- the United Nations, the
United States, the European Union and Russia -- last week
called Israel`s blockade "counterproductive."
Blair said he had been telling Israeli leaders "that
because Hamas will get whatever they want through the tunnels,
actually this is a counterproductive policy. You stop the
legitimate goods coming in legitimately."
Israel has said the closures are needed to keep pressure
on the Islamist Hamas group -- which is sworn to the
destruction of the Jewish state -- and that the humanitarian
needs of Gaza`s 1.5 million residents are met.
But the closures have yet to force Hamas to recognise
Israel, renounce violence or release an Israeli soldier
captured in June 2006. It has tightened its grip on the
territory since they were imposed.
Earlier today, a draft text released ahead of an EU
foreign ministers meeting on Monday called for Israel to end
its blockade of Gaza, proposing a "new mechanism" to overcome
Israeli fears of military aid getting in.
"The situation in Gaza remains a source of grave
concern," said the draft prepared for a meeting of the 27
foreign ministers in Luxembourg, which also expresses regret
at the loss of life in the flotilla raid.
The ministers are set to call for a "credible, impartial
and independent investigation into these events."
Israel`s blockade is "unacceptable and counterproductive,
including from the point of view of Israel`s security," the
draft stressed, calling for "an unfettered flow" of
humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people in line with