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Press Release 302/2010
14 October 2010
Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb has today visited the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza.
The purpose of his trip was to form a view of the humanitarian situation in Gaza and to meet with representatives of aid organizations active in the region. The UN Palestinian refugee relief agency UNRWA was responsible for the trip’s practical arrangements.
According to Foreign Minister Stubb, the situation in Gaza is still worrisome and unless there is a change, the population’s difficult living conditions will further increase the region’s instability. “It would be particularly important to allow exports from Gaza so that the region’s economy could develop,” Stubb stated.
Stubb thanked Israel and its efforts in June to relax the blockade of Gaza, but he also said that additional measures are needed. “The EU’s aim is complete dismantling of the blockade,” the foreign minister pointed out. “The EU, however, also understands Israel’s concerns, which are associated with the safety of its citizens.” Israel’s problem has been the repeated firing of rockets from Gaza to Israel.
In the same connection, Foreign Minister Stubb also appealed for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped and has been in Gaza since 2006.
The visit to Gaza was part of the foreign minister’s separate agenda during the official visit of President of the Republic Tarja Halonen to the occupied Palestinian territory.
Foreign Minister Stubb thanked the UNRWA staff members for the work done by the organization on behalf of Palestinian refugees. Last year Finland gave more than 6 million euros in support to UNRWA, and this year Finland’s overall support to the agency is about 4.5 million euros.
Additional information on Foreign Minister Stubb’s visit to Gaza: Päivi Pohjanheimo, Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, mobile tel. +358 40 511 3786; and Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, Press Attaché to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, mobile tel. +358 40 732 8340