India calls for end to Gaza blockade

July 30th, 2008 - 8:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Tehran, July 30 (IANS) Underlining its commitment to the Palestinian cause, India Wednesday called for an end to the cycle of violence in West Asia and the ongoing blockade in Gaza. “Over the course of this year, particularly over the recent days, we have been concerned with the situation in West Asia,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here at the ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Committee on Palestine.

“We continue to urge an end to the cycle of violence, the ongoing blockade of Gaza, the expansion of settlements and the construction of the separation wall,” he said while stressing India’s long civilizational links with West Asia and the Gulf region - home to over 4.5-million-strong Indian diaspora.

India’s appeal to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza comes at a time when a group of international activists are planning to breach it by navigating a small sailing ship into the Israeli-controlled waters off the Gaza Strip.

Israel has imposed a stringent economic blockade on Gaza Strip after the pullout in 2005 in response to rocket attacks from the area at its southern towns and villages. It has tightened the blockade after the June 2007 Gaza takeover by Hamas, which saw an increase in the rocket attacks.

Mukherjee, who is here to attend the 15th NAM ministerial meeting, also underlined the need to push forward the peace process in the Middle East and stressed that the issue cannot be resolved by force.

“It seems that we are not getting anywhere on this issue, which we believe is political in nature and cannot be resolved by force,” he said while alluding to commitments made by Israel and Palestine at the Annapolis Conference last year.

“In keeping with India’s support to the Middle East peace process in all its tracks, we have consistently supported the Palestinian people in realizing their legitimate aspirations for a sovereign, independent and viable state of Palestine, existing side-by-side in peace with the state of Israel,” Mukherjee said.

“India remains convinced that a just and comprehensive solution can be achieved, based on the principle of “land for peace’ and in accordance with the series of UN Security Council resolutions such as 242, 338, 1399 and 1515,” he said.

“It appears that additional Budgetary Support will be required by Palestine, and we will all need to consider what we can do,” he said while pledging to work with other members of the NAM panel on collectively supporting the Palestinian cause.

India had announced humanitarian assistance equivalent to $2.3 million, following economic sanctions imposed by Israel and the West, in 2006. India also pledged $5 million for development projects at the Paris Donors’ Conference for Palestine last year.

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