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EU, UK, Japan welcome ceasefire

Nov. 22, 2012 5:35 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 22, 2012 5:36 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The EU, UK and Japan have welcomed the ceasefire reached on Wednesday between Israel and Gaza.

"I welcome the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and Israel. I commend in particular the efforts of Egypt and all those who engaged in mediating between the parties to secure this ceasefire," EU representative Catherine Ashton said Wednesday.

"The European Union will continue its efforts to ensure a sustainable solution to the present situation in the Gaza Strip. This is crucial for ending all violence and enhancing security in the region."

UK foreign secretary William Hague also welcomed the truce and thanked Egypt, the US and the UN for their roles in securing the agreement.

Hague added: "The priority now must be to build on the ceasefire and to address the underlying causes of the conflict, including more open access to and from Gaza for trade as well as humanitarian assistance, and an end to the smuggling of weapons."

He said the loss of life showed the urgent need for a return to negotiations on a two-state solution and pledged the UK's support for a "new initiative" to restart the peace process "before the window for a two state solution closes."

Japan on Thursday said it hoped the ceasefire would be a lasting one.

"Japan has been working to realize the ceasefire and highly appreciates the mediation efforts by Egypt, the United States of America and other relevant countries and organizations," a statement from the minister for foreign affairs said.

"Japan continues to support the efforts of the international community toward the stabilization of the Gaza Strip and progress of the Middle East Peace Process, and provides its utmost cooperation," the minister added.

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