December 30, 2008

EU calls for 48-hour cease-fire in Gaza

Foreign ministers from the European Union called for a 48-hour cease-fire in Gaza following a meeting Tuesday evening in Paris.

Bernard Kouchner announced the call after the meeting, Deutsche Welle reported.

EU members went into the meeting split on the Israeli air strikes on Gaza, The Times of London reported. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed Hamas for instigating the violence by continuing to fire rockets into Israel, French and German leaders split responsibility, saying that Israel was using excessive force.

The return of the truce and an end to violence should happen as quickly as possible, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said. Humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza is also indispensable.

Tuesday's meeting was France's last initiative holding the presidency of the union.

Hamas denied reports that Khaled Mashal, a Hamas leader living in exile, had said the group would accept a cease-fire if Israel ends the airstrikes and allows supplies into the territory.