GAZA STRIP: Italian minister calls for Israel to relax border restrictions
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini toured the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and called on Israel to facilitate more movement of goods and people between the seaside enclave and the West Bank.
During a visit to a U.N. school in northern Gaza Strip, Frattini said Israel must do more to open the crossings.
"It is true that there have been improvements on the situation, but this is not enough."
The Italian minister arrived after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a number of Palestinian officials, as well as leaders of Israel.
He called for a doubling in the amount of imports and exports from Gaza and vowed that Italy would continue its support for UNRWA, the U.N. agency responsible for helping Palestinian refugees.
He said that the European Union approved funding for 100 new schools in Gaza, but Israeli authorities have only allowed seven to be built.
"Israel should open the commercial crossings in order to allow construction materials for schools, health centers and in order to make progress in the peace process in the region."
The Italian minister also spoke about improving relations between Hamas and Fatah, the two Palestinian movements that control Gaza and the West Bank, respectively.
"The reconciliation is very important and necessary, and all who want to achieve it will receive considerable support from all over the world, particularly Arab countries."
With regard to the prisoner exchange deal with Israel, he confirmed that negotiations were ongoing for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
-- Rushdi abu Alouf in Gaza City
Photo: Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini visits a United Nations girls' school in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip, on Wednesday. Credit: Mohammed Abed / European Pressphoto Agency