Israel bars German minister from Gaza
'Sometimes the Israeli government does not make it easy for its friends to explain why it behaves the way it does,' says aid minister Dirk Niebel.
German Development Aid Minister Dirk Niebel was denied entry into the Gaza Strip during his current visit to Israel, German officials said Saturday evening.
A ministry spokesman said talks had continued to the last moment with Israeli officials over Niebel's aim to visit the Palestinian areas.
Niebel, who arrived in Israel earlier Saturday, had hoped to visit a sewage treatment plant being financed with German development aid.
Speaking on the second German TV network ZDF program"heute" (today) Saturday evening, Niebel expressed his anger about being denied entry.
"I would have wished for a clear political signal would be sent for an opening and for transparency," said Niebel, of Germany's liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).
"Sometimes the Israeli government does not make it easy for its friends to explain why it behaves the way it does," he added.
Niebel said that Israel's latest announcement on easing the Gaza blockade was "not sufficient" and that Israel must "now deliver" on its pledge.
Beyond that, the government in Jerusalem should be "clear about how Israel, within an international context, wants to cooperate with
its friends in the future as well," the German minister said.
Earlier Saturday, the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that the German parliament is to issue a cross-party demand that Israel allow humanitarian aid to reach the Gaza Strip by sea.
According to the newspaper, a motion opposing Israel's blockade of Gaza had the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel's government coalition parties, as well as the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party.
"The living conditions for the civil population in Gaza must urgently be improved," the motion reportedly stated.
"Israel's Gaza blockade is effectively a blockade of the United Nations," the Greens' foreign spokeswoman Kerstin Mueller told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, adding: "This is unacceptable."
Mueller said Israel had to give the United Nations sea access to Gaza, so aid could be delivered "quickly and unbureaucratically."
The motion reportedly calls upon the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to facilitate negotiations between Israel and the UN.
Earlier in the week, Israel decided to ease the blockade - which intensified after Hamas took control of the Strip in June 2007 - following international uproar over the May 31 Israeli navy attack on a flotilla of unauthorized aid to the Gaza strip, which left nine activists dead.