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'Right to receive food.' Zapatero
Photo: Reuters

Syria warns of Mideast instability amid Israel-Turkey crisis

In joint press conference with Spanish PM, President Assad says 'Israeli attacks' real cause of setbacks for regional stability. Zapatero: foreign ministers of Spain, France and Italy to visit Gaza this month to check on Israel's plan to ease blockade

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned Monday that the Israel-Turkey crisis could affect stability in the Middle East and undermine Ankara's role in the region's peace negotiations.

 

"If the relationship between Turkey and Israel is not renewed it will be very difficult for Turkey to play a role in negotiations" to revive the Middle East peace process, Assad said on an official visit to Spain.

 

This would "without doubt affect the stability in the region," the Syrian leader said, speaking alongside Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

 

Assad said "the real cause" of these setbacks for regional stability were "Israeli attacks", referring to the raid on May 31 on Turkish ships carrying aid to Gaza in which nine Turks were killed.

 

Turkey warned Israel it would cut ties unless it received an apology for the deadly raid, but the Jewish state said it will never say sorry for defending itself.

 

Ankara has also recalled its ambassador, cancelled military exercises with Israel and closed its airspace to Israeli military aircraft.

 

Zapatero told the press conference that the foreign ministers of Spain, France and Italy are to visit the Gaza Strip this month to check on Israel's plan to ease a blockade of the territory.

 

The three officials "have a visit to Gaza in their calendars for this month to check on how the internal process of lifting of the blockade is going," Zapatero said.

 

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman last month invited Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini to lead an EU delegation to the Gaza Strip.


Assad and Zapatero in Madrid on Moday (Photo: AP)

 

Frattini will be joined by his Spanish and French counterparts, Miguel Angel Moratinos and Bernard Kouchner, Zapatero said, but did not indicate the exact date of the visit.

 

In Rome, Frattini said the visit was likely "in the next few weeks."

 

"We will see for ourselves how the Israeli blockade is being eased, and personally I hope it will be completely removed," the ANSA news agency quoted him as saying.

 

On Thursday, Italy said the visit had drawn initial support from the Palestinian prime minister and European governments.

 

Two weeks ago, Israel announced a significant easing of its blockade of Gaza, moving from a policy of barring everything except items on a "kosher" list to a more open policy where everything is permitted except blacklisted items.

 

The new policy came in response to mounting international pressure on Israel to ease its four-year siege on Gaza after a naval raid on a flotilla of aid ships trying to run the blockade that killed nine Turkish activists.

 

Zapatero said the Israeli government "has pledged to progressively lift the blockade" and "we want Israel to fulfill this commitment.

 

"The more than one million residents have the right to receive food, medicines and the means to reconstruct the installations that have been destroyed.

 

"The governments of Spain and the European Union will help and support the reconstruction plans of the United Nations ... in a direct manner" by sending the three-member delegation to the territory, the prime minister said.

 

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פרסום ראשון: 07.05.10, 21:33
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