Last updated: 20 June, 2013

Ashton calls to ease blockade on Gaza

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on Thursday from Gaza for a relief of the Israeli blockade on the Palestinian territory, ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement.

“It is World Refugee Day and I chose to be here on this day,” Ashton said in remarks relayed by her office.

“I chose to be here to underline the situation in Gaza, and to say that we support the work of (United Nation’s agency for Palestinian refugees) UNRWA and want to see a future for the people of Gaza.”

“We want to see the crossings open, and the economic situation improved,” she said in a remark directed to Israel at a joint press conference with with UNRWA Commissioner General Filippo Grandi.

Ashton praised UNRWA’s work and pledged that the EU would “continue to be the strongest supporter, that we will give the financial support that is needed, but also the political support.”

Hamas officials, with whom Ashton did not meet, urged her to “act immediately to lift the siege of Gaza” and “remove Hamas from the list of terrorist organisations” of the EU, arguing that “the movement defends its people and believes in democracy and openness to the world.”