Miliband 'concerned with Gaza situation'

UK ministers issue statement calling on Israel to end electricity cuts; say 2008 key year for ME peace.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Development Secretary Douglas Alexander have expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip following Israel's decision to reduce the supply of electricity there. On Friday the ministers issued a joint statement calling on Israel to reverse its decision. "We are extremely concerned by reports that Israel has reduced electricity supplies to Gaza," they said. "We believe that such action risks a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Gaza without improving the security situation. "Without a steady supply of electricity hospitals cannot function, pumping stations and sewage systems fail and access to clean water is denied," they said. "We call on the government of Israel to reverse its decision immediately, to avoid any further planned cuts and to fulfill its obligations under international law." The two also expressed concern over the recent escalation of violence in the region. Last Monday, Miliband condemned a suicide attack in Dimona, saying that the British government fully understood Israel's security concerns, and he called on all Palestinian factions to stop attacks, including rocket attacks, against innocent civilians. "Terrorist atrocities must not deflect us from our shared goal of just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on a two-state solution," Miliband said. "The UK continues to support those leaders whose commitments at Annapolis and since have given Palestinian and Israelis the first glimmer of hope in seven years." Miliband and Alexander also said on Friday that 2008 was a key year for progress on the Middle East peace process. "The situation on the ground - security and humanitarian - can help or hinder this process," they said. "We support the efforts of our EU and UN colleagues to promote an effective Palestinian security force and the reopening of the Gaza crossings. The reform and development plan of the Palestinian Authority is the best hope of sustainable economic and social improvement for Palestinians." The UK has committed £243 million in aid to the PA over three years, conditioned upon political reforms.