"We are consulting with Egypt about new ways to address Gaza issues."
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
WASHINGTON – US Vice President Joe Biden discussed with Egypt on Monday ways to improve the situation in Gaza, expanding American consultations on the issue to include the country that controls the Strip’s southern border.“We are consulting closely with Egypt, as well as our other partners, on new ways to address the humanitarian, economic, security and political aspects of the situation in Gaza,” Biden announced following his visit with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.RELATED:US wants a shift in blockade policy, not major changePetition: A call to reasonThe US has previously asserted the need for modifications to restrictions on Gaza, in conversations with Israel following the deadly flotilla incident last Monday in which nine Turkish activists were killed by IDF commandos while trying to break the siege Israel has imposed on the Hamas-controlled territory.Egypt, like Israel, has severely restricted the flow of goods and people in and out of the area, as Egypt also considers the Islamic group a threat. But Egypt eased the border closing in the wake of the flotilla confrontation.Biden wants peace talks continuedBiden also used the visit, which had been in the works before the flotilla encounter that refocused headlines on Gaza, to stress the need to keep nascent peace talks on track.“The status quo is unsustainable for all sides,” Biden declared. “It is vital to make progress in the proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians to enable the parties to move to direct negotiations as soon as possible.” Despite last week’s bloody incident, the indirect talks have continued, and Arab backers such as Egypt haven’t pulled back their endorsement even as they’ve denounced Israel’s actions regarding Gaza.Biden also sought to keep momentum on Iran, which is due to face a vote for another round of UN Security Council sanctions this week even though the council has been preoccupied with the flotilla fallout.“We discussed our serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear program,” Biden noted.“We expect to see developments in the United Nations Security Council to hold Iran accountable very soon.”He added, “In addition to concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, we remain concerned about its destabilizing activities throughout the region, including with regard to its support for Hizbullah and Hamas.”Biden’s visit to Egypt, rescheduled from March – the same month he visited Israel – is part of a trip that also includes Kenya and South Africa.
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