Ban, Ashton to be let into Gaza

Jerusalem decides to make an exception to policy for visits to Strip.

ban ki-moon 311 (photo credit: AP)
ban ki-moon 311
(photo credit: AP)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton will be allowed to visit Gaza from Israel during upcoming visits here, the Foreign Ministry announced Monday – an exception to the government’s undeclared but de facto policy of not enabling such visits.
The decision, according to a Foreign Ministry statement, came in response to special requests by both diplomats.
Israel, the statement read, “has decided to facilitate their entry to the Gaza Strip in order to allow them to get a firsthand impression of humanitarian activities taking place in that area.”
Ashton and Ban are expected on separate visits next week.
One diplomatic official said an exception to the policy had been made for the two because they represented multilateral organizations, not individual nations. According to the official, the concern in Jerusalem was that a flood of foreign ministers into the area would give Hamas a degree of legitimacy.
Neither Ban nor Ashton, the official said, would be meeting Hamas representatives.
Priorto Netanyahu’s coming to power last March, Ban, Ashton’s predecessor,Javier Solana, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and US Sen.John Kerry were all allowed into the area.
Since then, suchhigh-level visits have, for all intents and purposes, stopped, withIsrael rejecting requests for separate visits by – among others – theFrench, Turkish and Irish foreign ministers.