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Irish foreign minister visits Gaza Strip

Jan. 28, 2012 9:50 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 29, 2012 7:34 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore visited the Gaza Strip on Friday, where he slammed Israel's blockade on the coastal enclave.

Gilmore, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, told reporters: "Ireland is completely opposed to the blockade ... It is clearly having a devastating impact on the local economy."

"The blockade should be ended soon in order to allow the local economy to grow, and ensure that people who live in Gaza can exercise their human rights: freedom of movement and travel."

Gilmore met with officials from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and civil society representatives in the Gaza Strip, in the first leg of a three-day visit to Israel and Palestine.

His spokesman Philip Grant said earlier that the Irish foreign minister wanted to see the impact of the embargo firsthand, according to official PA news agency Wafa.

The brief visit comes nearly three months after Israeli forces blocked an Irish-flagged vessel carrying 15 activists, among them an Irish member of the European Parliament, from reaching Gaza in defiance of Israel’s naval blockade.

The move sparked tensions with Dublin, which has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the Israeli land and sea blockade imposed in 2006, and tightened a year later when Hamas seized control of the territory.

"The flotilla is a voluntary activity by individuals and organizations and they obviously launch them in response to the blockade,” Gilmore said.
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