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Gaza: Frontiers

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 9 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what representations his Department has made on returning EU observers to the Rafah border crossing; (154594)

(2) what recent representations the Government has made to Israel and Egypt on re-opening the Rafah border crossing.

Officials at our embassy in Cairo raised the issue of Palestinians stranded on the Gaza/Egypt border with Tareq Maaty, Egyptian Deputy Assistant Minister for Refugee and Consular Matters on 23 August. Mr. Maaty confirmed that following discussions the Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit had in Israel in late July, the vast majority of the 6,000 Palestinians stuck in the Sinai have now returned to Gaza via the Erez crossing. While Hamas still controls the Rafah crossing, Egypt, Israel and Palestinian President Abbas are unable to guarantee the security needed to reopen it. We continue to stress to the Israelis the importance of opening the crossings into Gaza.

We believe there is an urgent need to re-open the Rafah crossing. The 23 July the EU General Affairs External Relations Council called:

“on all parties to work towards an opening of the crossings in and out of Gaza for both humanitarian and commercial flows. Karni and other crossings must be open on a regular and predictable basis, in view of reaching the transit volumes foreseen in the Agreement on Movement and Access. This is necessary to ensure the viability of the Palestinian economy and to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian people, both in Gaza and in the west bank. It also underlines the need to re-open the Rafah crossing point and stands ready to resume the full activities of the EU Border Assistance Mission Rafah as soon as conditions allow”.