FOREIGN AFFAIRS European External Action Service
Turf war continues over EU's diplomatic corps
Frustration among EU member states as Commission insists on managing delegations.
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THOUGHTFUL Catherine Ashton is at odds with her fellow commissioners. EP
Ashton ‘allowed' to visit GazaIsrael has agreed to allow Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, to visit the Gaza strip during a trip to the Middle East, starting on Sunday (14 March). Ashton will then go to Moscow for a meeting on the Middle East peace process on Friday.
Ashton announced her intention to travel to the territory at an informal meeting of the EU's foreign ministers held last week in Cordoba. “We are providing a huge amount of aid into Gaza and I'm very interested to make sure that we are seeing the benefits of that aid going in,” Ashton said.
Her announcement reflected widespread unease among the EU's member states over the situation in Gaza, which is still suffering the effects of an Israeli invasion in December 2008. The territory is under the control of Hamas, an Islamist Palestinian group that is on the EU's list of terrorist organisations.
Access to the strip is controlled by Israel and Egypt, which tend to deny visitors entry to the territory. Micheál Martin, Ireland's foreign minister, who was in Gaza last week – the first such visit by a foreign minister from the EU in more than a year – told his counterparts in Cordoba that Israel maintained an “inhumane siege” on the strip. Israel's foreign ministry said on Monday (8 March) that Ashton and Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, would be allowed to enter the territory.
? Ashton said yesterday that Israel should reverse the decision to build an additional 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. She stressed that such settlements were “illegal” and undermined peace efforts by threatening to make a two-state solution impossible.
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EU reduces size of its mission in Kosovo days after the election of a nationalist to the Serbian presidency.