Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter calls for restoring aid to Palestinians

Associated Press
Date: 10-06-06

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Friday that a foreign policy aimed at punishing the Hamas-led Palestinian government through a seven-month aid freeze has failed, and called on the international community to seek other ways to resolve the conflict.

"The attempt to coerce Hamas leaders by starving the Palestinian people has failed, and it is time for the international community to alleviate their suffering and resort to diplomacy," Carter said in a statement.

The former president added that he is doubtful that Palestinian leaders will make any progress toward reconciliation with Israel "as long as the Palestinians are subjected to this kind of debasement and personal suffering."

Israel and the West imposed sanctions on the Hamas government after the group won legislative elections and took power in the Palestinian Authority last March. Israel, the U.S. and the European Union consider Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, a terrorist group.

Israel has withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes collected on behalf of the Palestinians. It also has frequently closed the main cargo crossing into the Gaza Strip, preventing goods from moving in and out of the area, citing security concerns and planned attacks by Palestinian militants.

In June, gunmen linked to Hamas tunneled into Israel, attacked an army base and captured a soldier stationed along the Gaza border. Israel responded by launching a military offensive into the strip, where 1.4 million people live in 360 square kilometers of land.

Carter said the closing of Gaza's access points has led to a "stranglehold" on the territory.

"A strong peace effort has been absent for the past five years. It is long overdue," Carter said.

He also pushed for the U.S. or international community to negotiate the exchange of the Israeli soldier for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Carter was among 135 former world leaders who signed a statement this week calling for "fresh thinking and the injection of new political will" to resolve the conflict between Arabs and Israelis.

"As long as the conflict lasts, it will generate instability and violence in the region and beyond," it said.


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