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Brown calls for end to Gaza isolation

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged Israel on Sunday to allow aid workers to operate freely in Gaza and to reopen crossings into the coastal strip following its cease-fire announcement.

Brown said that Britain would provide 30 million pounds for immediate humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Royal Navy would also patrol the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to prevent arms being smuggled to the Palestinian group Hamas.

“Too many innocent civilians, including hundreds of children, have been killed during the military offensive,” Brown told reporters en route to a summit on the crisis in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

“Our first priority, a humanitarian imperative, is to get food and medical treatment to those who so urgently need it,” the prime minister said.

“Israel must allow full access to humanitarian workers, and to relief supplies. We must also end Gaza’s economic isolation by reopening the crossings that link it to the outside world,” he added.

Later, visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem along with other European leaders, Brown said: “I ... believe that we will see an opening of the crossings.

“I believe that that would constitute the next stage following the cease-fire that would make possible a resumption of the talks that are necessary for a permanent peace.”

He added: “We will do everything in our power to support a peace that is lasting and sustainable.”


Britain would help efforts to transport injured civilians to hospitals in the West Bank and help clear unexploded bombs and shells after a three-week Israeli offensive in which more than 1,200 Palestinians were killed.

Speaking in Egypt, Brown said Britain, France and Germany would work together to stem the flow of arms to Hamas, which controls the strip and launches regular rocket attacks on Israel.

“As part of this, Britain will use naval assets in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. We will help train Palestinian and Egyptian security forces. And we will support the return of EU border monitors,” he added.

Brown said U.S. President-elect Barack Obama shared a desire for a lasting settlement in the region. Israel declared a cease-fire on Sunday, two days before Obama takes office.

Editing by Myra MacDonald