Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has invited his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini to head a delegation of European diplomats to the Gaza Strip, Channel Two news reported Thursday.

This proposal marks a striking shift in Israeli policy, which has been to discourage and even prevent foreign officials from visiting the Palestinian territory since Hamas violently wrestled control over Gaza in 2007.

According to the report, Lieberman suggested that Frattini and the other European diplomats also invest in Gaza's infrastructure.

Earlier Thursday, the Council of Europe parliamentarians called on Israel to completely end its siege of the Gaza Strip, days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an ease of the land blockade, which it imposed in 2007.
 

The Council of Europe parliamentarians Thursday called on Israel to completely end its siege of the Gaza Strip, days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an ease of the land blockade.

Israel should allow goods to be delivered to the coastal enclave by land and sea, "without prejudice to its own security," so Palestinians can enjoy "normal living conditions," said the resolution adopted by a large majority of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

PACE, consisting of parliamentarians from the 47 members of the Council of Europe, meets four times a year to debate topical issues and give policy advice to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The parliamentarians also criticized the Israeli raid of a Gaza- bound aid flotilla last month as a breach of international law, calling it "manifestly disproportionate."

The group additionally called on Israel to halt the construction of new settlements in occupied territories and East Jerusalem.

Israel's recent easing of the Gaza blockade was described as a "first step" by the assembly. But completely lifting the blockade is "essential" to lower tensions and revive the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, the Italian social democrat and assembly rapporteur Piero Fassino said.

As part of its efforts to bring peace to the Middle East, PACE regularly brings together members of the Israeli Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council for talks.