Ma'an News Agency
June 14, 2010 - 12:00am

The Palestinian Authority denied Israeli media reports on Sunday that President Mahmoud Abbas asked his US counterpart for a continuation of Gaza's blockade, presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh told reporters on Sunday.

"President Abbas had raised the issue of the necessity of lifting the blockade as a matter on a par with the fate of the peace process," Abu Rudaineh told the Palestinian Authority-run WAFA news agency about a Wednesday meeting between the two heads of state, where the request was allegedly made.

Israel's siege on the Gaza Strip has been brought up for discussion with Arab and international leaders, the spokesman said, urging the international community to "take advantage of the current atmosphere" following an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid fleet that left nine humanitarians dead, "which will end suffering and create a good chance for reviving the peace process."

'Another attempt to distort facts'

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, who accompanied Abbas on his US visit, further denounced the report that the Palestinian leader had requested a continuation of the blockade. On Sunday, he said the accusation was "yet another disinformation attempt aimed at distorting facts and deflecting Israel’s responsibility to end the illegal and inhuman siege on Gaza," a statement read.

“President Abbas has been demanding complete and unconditional lifting of Israel’s illegal siege over Gaza, which he reiterated during his recent meetings with World leaders.”

On the same day, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported that Abbas was opposed to lifting the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip because it would bolster Hamas, allegedly putting forward his stance to Obama during their meeting last Wednesday at the White House.

"The issue has been and will continue to be the main focus in all our discussions until our people in Gaza are free and the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem is ended," Erekat said.

Describing the report as "absurd" and baseless, the PLO official said it "lacks any credible source, can be so irresponsibly published."

"The illegal blockade has nothing to do with the Hamas since Gaza has been closed long before Hamas took control. Israel must end its unlawful blockade. Until then, Israel has certain obligations under international law to provide for the local population," Erekat said.

Instead of honoring its obligations under international law, "Israel is blocking humanitarian aid flotillas from reaching Gaza, and collectively punishing millions of innocent civilians in blatant disregard to international law."

"We will never countenance this or any other such illegal Israeli conduct and will continue to advocate against it and call for an international investigation," the official added.

Erekat was among the delegation of Palestinian officials accompanying Abbas during his US visit, meeting with the Obama administration's senior officials to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East, as US Middle East envoy George Mitchell continues to mediate indirect talks between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

Following the meeting, Obama described Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip as "unsustainable" as well as the current state of affairs in the region, calling on Israel to allow more goods and services into the coastal enclave.


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