Blair welcomes Gaza ceasefire

Tony Blair congratulated the Egyptian government on its successful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian factions

Tony Blair congratulated the Egyptian government on its successful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian factions

First published in National News © by

Former prime minister Tony Blair has welcomed the announcement of an open-ended ceasefire in Gaza but expressed regret at the "tragic" loss of so many innocent lives.

The Middle East peace envoy also congratulated the Egyptian government on its successful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian factions.

He said: " The Quartet will now concentrate on a long-term plan for Gaza and for its reconstruction, including the effective and efficient reopening and reconnection to the outside world under the authority of the Palestinian authority government.

"Such a plan will enable a proper and decent life for the people of Gaza, as well as protect the security of the people of Israel.

"It is only tragic that such a ceasefire has come too late to save the lives of so many innocent people."

The ceasefire halted a seven-week war that killed more than 2,200 people, left tens of thousands in Gaza homeless and devastated entire neighbourhoods in the blockaded territory.

Hamas declared victory and bursts of celebratory gunfire erupted across Gaza, but the terms of the deal fell far short of its demand that Israel and Egypt open Gaza's borders.

Under the Egyptian-brokered deal, Israel is to ease restrictions on imports into Gaza, including aid and material for reconstruction. It also allows Palestinians to fish six nautical miles offshore, up from three nautical miles.

In a month, the ceasefire calls for talks to begin in Cairo on more complex issues, including building a seaport and airport in Gaza, and Israel's demand that Hamas disarm.

However, the agreement appeared to contain no major Israeli concessions and previous understandings after a round of fighting in 2012 quickly dissipated.

Previous ceasefire deals have collapsed since the war began on July 8 and it was not clear if this one would hold. The truce took effect at 7pm local time, but violence persisted until the last minute.

Middle East minister Tobias Ellwood also welcomed the ceasefire and paid tribute to the Egyptian government for its work in securing the truce.

He went on: "The ceasefire provides a critical and welcome window of opportunity for reaching a comprehensive agreement that tackles the underlying causes of the conflict.

"This should ensure that Hamas and other militant groups permanently end rocket fire and other attacks against Israel; the Palestinian Authority resumes control of Gaza and restores effective and accountable governance; and that Israel lifts its restrictions in order to ease the suffering of ordinary Palestinians and allow the Gazan economy to grow.

"There should be international monitoring and verification to ensure full implementation of a comprehensive agreement.

"These discussions are not easy but there is no viable alternative. The international community stands ready to assist."

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