EU policy chief promises to convey Gaza plight to Quartet

09:37, March 19, 2010      

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Baroness Catherine Ashton (C), vice president of the European Commission and high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, speaks to reporters during her visit to the United Nations distribution center at the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza City, March 18, 2010. (Xinhua/Wissam Nassar)

The European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday said she will convey an image of the situation in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip to the Middle East Quartet members who are meeting in Moscow Friday.

"I wanted to say how important it's to me to be here in Gaza," Ashton told a news conference at a food distributing center run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip. "I will also inform my discussions with the Quartet when I arrive in Moscow."

Ashton is the highest European official to have visited Gaza since Islamic Hamas movement seized the territory in June 2007. However, she will not meet Hamas officials. The EU agrees with the United States on boycotting Hamas unless it recognizes Israel.

The international Quartet, made up of the U.S., Russia, EU and the UN, is meeting to assess chances of resuming peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. It comes as plans to build new homes for Jews in the occupied East Jerusalem hindered a U.S. proposal to hold proximity indirect talks between the two sides.

As part of the Quartet, Ashton said that the EU was "committed to try and find solution to the Middle East peace process," adding that she is visiting Gaza "to gather as much information and knowledge as I can to be able to inject that information into the Quartet meeting."

Ashton came to inspect the effects of Israel's blockade on Gaza and how the nearly three-year-old sanctions delayed the rebuilding of the enclave after the end of a three-week Israeli war on Gaza in January 2009.

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