World leaders at G8 summit: Current Gaza tensions unsustainable
Leaders of world's 8 top industrial democracies meet in Canada for G8 summit, to be followed by 20-nation meet.
The leaders of the world's eight top industrial democracies on Saturday called the current tensions in Gaza "unsustainable."
The countries - the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia - drafted the statement at the end of a meeting in Canada of the eight powers, and before a larger group of 20 nations was to convene.
"The current arrangements are not sustainable and must be changed," the statement read.
The draft came two days after the Council of Europe parliamentarians called on Israel to completely end its siege of the Gaza Strip.
Israel imposed a blockade on the Palestinian territory in 2007, following Hamas' violent takeover of the Strip. Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would ease the restrictions of the land blockade, but that the naval blockade would remain intact.
"We welcome the Israeli Cabinet’s announcement of a new policy towards Gaza as a positive development. We urge full and effective implementation of this policy in order to address the needs of Gaza’s population for humanitarian and commercial goods, civilian reconstruction and infrastructure, and legitimate economic activity as well as the legitimate security concerns of Israel that must continue to be safeguarded," the statement went on to say.
In the statement, the G8 participants expressed regret over the deaths of 9 Turkish activists aboard an aid ship headed for Gaza, in violation of the naval blockade, when Israeli commandos clashed with passengers on May 31. The countries welcomed, however, Israel's decision to independently investigate the event "in the expectation that it will bring to light all the facts surrounding this tragic incident."
"We call for the immediate release of the abducted Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit," the statement continued, coinciding with the fourth anniversary of the abduction of the Israeli soldier by Gaza militants.
On Iran, the G8 repeated calls made at its summit last year for Tehran's leaders to respect the rule of law amid a crackdown on opposition supporters that began when government forces crushed 2009 post-election street protests.
"We expect the government of Iran to respect the rule of law and freedom of expression as outlined in the international parties to which Iran is a party," the draft statement said.
Major members of the G8 led by the United States this month pushed through new United Nations sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program, which Western nations fear is aimed at producing atomic weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes.