Ashton- AP- Sep. 22, 2010
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at the European Union Delegation offices in New York Sept. 22, 2010 Photo by AP
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Israel has failed to live up to its commitments on easing the blockade on the Gaza strip, the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton complained on Monday.

Israel pledged to loosen its grip on the Palestinian enclave in June, reacting to the international outcry caused by its at-sea shooting in late May of nine Turkish activists, who were trying to break the blockade.

But five months on, Ashton said there were not enough goods flowing in to meet the humanitarian and reconstruction needs of the territory, which is ruled by Hamas, the radical group classed as a terrorist organization by the EU and the United States.

"Gaza remains a source of great concern for me ... at the present time, we think that what's happened with Gaza is unsatisfactory, the volume of goods is not increasing as significantly as it needs to," she said, speaking on behalf of all EU foreign ministers.

She also urged Israel to allow exports out of Gaza and to let in construction material that the local United Nations agency (UNRWA( wants to use to rebuild schools.

"It is absolutely essential that the economy is allowed to recover and that people are allowed to invest in their futures," Ashton pointed out.

The EU's top foreign policy official spoke as Israeli-Palestinian peace talks remained in limbo, following the expiry in September of an Israeli freeze on new settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"Not surprisingly there is a lot of concern with the current lack of progress and with the ongoing settlement activities," Ashton commented.