Changes in Gaza could be opportunity for peace: Israel

By Xinhua

Luxembourg : Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has said the current volatile situation in the Gaza Strip provides "a real opportunity" for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

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"The extreme conditions, the difficulties (in the Gaza Strip) could be a real opportunity for the future of Palestinians, of Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian process," Livni told reporters here Monday after meeting European Union foreign ministers.

She called on all concerned to adopt a strategy to "weaken" Hamas, which has taken control of all facilities from the Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip after bloody clashes between the two sides.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the Hamas-led government last week, and formed an emergency government – minus-Hamas – in Ramallah led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a former finance minister.

The Hamas government refused to bow down, and vowed to continue its work in Gaza.

"The strategy when it comes to the Palestinian Authority, is to make a clear distinction between the moderates and extremists, between Hamas and the Fatah, and to weaken the extremists," she said. "Every one has to take his side (on the issue)."

She reaffirmed that Israel would transfer the tax revenues it collected from Palestinian workers to the Palestinian emergency government sworn in on Sunday and led by Prime Minister Fayyad.

However, she did not say when the money would be delivered, which was linked to the developments on the ground.

"We will work with Palestinian President Abbas and Fayyad on how to transfer the money," Livni added.

She also said the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is currently on a US tour, will decide over the next few days on what steps to take concerning the Palestinians.

Livni promised Israel would not deteriorate the humanitarian situation by cutting water and power.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged Israel to immediately transfer tax revenues to the Fayyad government, and called on the Palestine to move rapidly on the ground.

He also said the EU would "begin thinking carefully about the political process in the Palestinian territories".

On Monday, Solana announced that the EU would resume direct aid to the Palestinian emergency government.

The EU foreign ministers are here to prepare for the EU summit scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Brussels.

High on the agenda are a new EU treaty, Darfur, the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Kosovo, the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear issue.