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Feb 15, 2015 11:21 AM

Blair calls for 'new approach' on visit to Gaza Strip

The Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) International Mideast envoy Tony Blair said Sunday the world has forsaken the Gaza Strip and called for a new approach to lifting up the war-battered territory.

On a visit to Gaza, the former British prime minister visited Palestinian families still taking shelter in a United Nations-run school.

Reconstruction efforts have been slow since last summer's war with Israel, and Blair said some donor countries have not followed through on their funding commitments. Blair said the stagnation in reconstruction was a "crime," and took aim at the international community, the Palestinians and Israel.

He said the current state of Gaza was a result of "those of us in the international community who over the years have made promises" that were not fulfilled, "those who offered leadership and failed to provide," and Israeli and Palestinian politics that have failed to bring "peace and prosperity" to Gaza.

"Gaza should not be separated from the rest of the world or from the rest of Palestinian territories," he said.

Blair called for the Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, to clarify if it is part of a "broader Islamist movement with regional designs" or if it would accept a long-term peace alongside Israel.

He also called for a "radical change of approach" from Israel to lift trade restrictions on Gaza "so that Gaza can truly be opened up to the outside world, and so that the Gaza people have the freedom of movement and goods and services that Gaza and its economy requires."

Blair also called on Gaza's neighbor Egypt to facilitate movement in and out of Gaza, and lead negotiations about Gaza's long-term future.

"If we allow Gaza to remain as it is, we are making a fundamental mistake," Blair said.


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