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Envoy says Israel dragging feet on Gaza borders - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) -An international envoy has criticized Israel for delaying agreements to open Gaza Strip border crossings following its withdrawal and said that could hinder a Palestinian economic revival essential to peace.

James Wolfensohn expressed his concern in a letter obtained by Reuters and addressed on Monday to the peacemaking Quartet of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia, who hope the Gaza pullout could revive a peace &#34road map.&#34

Quartet envoy Wolfensohn said that because of security concerns, Israel was &#34almost acting as though there has been no withdrawal, delaying making difficult decisions and preferring to take difficult matters back into slow-moving subcommittees.&#34

Gaza has been largely cut off from the outside world since Israel completed its troop withdrawal on September 12 after 38 years of occupation.

Israel said it was doing all that it could to ensure that borders opened as soon as possible, as long as that did not harm its own security or allow a destabilizing flood of weapons and possibly foreign militants into the Gaza Strip.

&#34I”m hopeful that in the next few days we can reach understandings that can allow the maximum possible flow,&#34 said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. &#34It”s in everyone”s interest, including our own, that Gaza will be a success story.&#34

The Rafah foot crossing to Egypt has been largely shut since troops left. Agreement has still not been reached on a formal re-opening, possibly with foreign monitors to ease Israeli concerns over arms smuggling.

A promised route that would allow safe passage for Palestinians traveling between Gaza and the occupied West Bank has not yet been set up and even the few Gazans who had been allowed to enter Israel have now largely been barred.

Wolfensohn said the number of trucks carrying exports into Gaza had dropped from 35 a day to &#34a mere handful.&#34

Wolfensohn, a former head of the World Bank, said that free movement was essential for efforts to bring peace.

&#34Without a dramatic improvement in Palestinian movement and access, within appropriate security arrangements for Israel, the economic revival essential to a resolution of the conflict will not be possible,&#34 he said.

Wolfensohn also criticized the Palestinian Authority for worsening the economic situation by deciding on a public sector salary hike and because of continuing insecurity.

&#34Time is short and optimism is a fragile commodity,&#34 he said. &#34If all of us Palestinians, Israelis, our friends in Egypt and donors miss this opportunity for change, we will regret it for the next decade.&#34

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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