French PM calls for lifting Israeli blockade on Gaza
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has called for lifting Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip after he met with his Palestinian counterpart Rami Hamdallah.
The two held the meeting in the French capital Paris on Friday, during which Philippe called for the “lifting of the Israeli blockade” imposed on Gaza and the reconciliation of the two rival Palestinian movements.
“There will be no peace without a lasting solution for Gaza, which requires inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the lifting of the Israeli blockade,” he said.
The Palestinian prime minister reiterated his call for an international conference with “’wide-ranging stakeholders” to “get the peace process going again.”
Gaza has been under the Israeli land, air and sea blockade since June 2007. The siege has caused a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty.
Philippe also raised concern over what he described as the “alarming situation” in the region due to “the acceleration of the Israeli occupation” and confrontations between the Palestinians and Israeli forces near the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories.
Tensions have been running high near the fence since March 30, which marked the start of a series of protests called “The Great March of Return.” Palestinian protesters demand the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.
Some 240 Palestinians have been killed and over 20,000 others wounded in the renewed Gaza clashes, according to the latest figures released by the Gaza Health Ministry.
The last round of the so-called peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians collapsed in 2014. Israel’s illegal settlement activities and its refusal to release senior Palestinian prisoners were among major stumbling blocks.
Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem al-Quds, and the Gaza Strip.
Israel, however, has refused to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to discuss the issue of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.
France, Palestine sign agreements
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who also visited Paris, signed agreements in different fields with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday.
The agreements cover education, finance, local governance, civil defense, the environment, water, private sector development and agriculture, according to the Palestinian foreign ministry.
Le Drian reiterated the French government’s support for a two-state solution, saying Paris is committed to supporting the institutions of an independent Palestinian state.