Blair: Israel to ease Gaza blockade soon

ME mediator says Israel to ease blockade on civilian aid, not weapons.

Blair 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Blair 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
LUXEMBOURG — Mideast mediator Tony Blair said Monday he believed Israel would significantly ease its blockade of Gaza "in the next days" by allowing commercial goods and reconstruction materials to flow into the Palestinian region.
Blair, who represents the "Quartet" of Mideast peacemakers — the UN, the US, the European Union and Russia — said he met with the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other government leaders three times over the last week.
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"Israel will maintain its blockade in response to weapons and combat material coming into Gaza but allow that those goods that are necessary for ordinary civilian life are brought into Gaza as a matter of course," he told reporters.
To achieve this, Israel would drop its restrictive list of goods permitted into the region, which includes construction materials such as cement and reinforcement steel, but also fruit preserves and pasta.
Instead, there would be a short list items banned because of Israeli security concerns.
"I hope very much that in the next days we will get the in principle commitment that we require," he said.
Blair plans to brief EU foreign ministers at a summit in Luxembourg this week, and will report on the progress of diplomatic efforts to relax the blockade following the May 31 Israeli commando raid on a humanitarian flotilla.