“It is positive that Israel has now decided to ease the blockade of Gaza. In my view, the blockade is counterproductive because it directly affects the civilian population and undermines the forces on the Palestinian side that are interested in peace. Moreover, it does not serve to enhance Israeli security,” said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
The Israeli authorities have decided to allow the entry of more goods and construction materials into Gaza. This will give the Palestinian Authority and the UN an opportunity to begin rebuilding homes and schools and to improve health services and sanitation. The decision came in response to repeated calls from the international community for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted.
“This change in policy is extremely important. It will provide a basis for normalising the economic situation and improving the living conditions of the population,” said Mr Støre.
Gaza has been subject to an Israeli blockade since Hamas took power in the summer of 2007. There have been severe restrictions on what could be imported, and this has impeded reconstruction following the war at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009.
“As chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) donor forum and in keeping with the mandate given by the UN Security Council, Norway has participated actively in developing the package of measures that are now in place. I have been in close contact with Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad, Quartet Envoy Blair and the US Middle East team during this process. We will continue our dialogue with all relevant parties with a view to ensuring that they are swiftly implemented,” said Foreign Minister Støre.
“We now expect that this will be followed up in practice and that it will rapidly lead to concrete changes for the people of Gaza. In order for this to be possible, it is essential to strengthen capacity at the border crossings into Gaza and ensure that Israeli procedures for checking goods are as effective as possible. I also expect this to entail greater freedom of movement for persons in and out of Gaza,” said the Foreign Minister.
“Norway recognises Israel’s need to prevent weapons being smuggled into Gaza. At the same time, I believe that it is possible to safeguard these security needs while at the same time taking effective measure to ease the blockade,” said Mr Støre.