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No Breakthrough in Talks on Opening Gaza-Egypt Border


High-level talks in the Middle East have failed to yield a breakthrough on opening the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The latest sticking point is the deployment of European inspectors.

Israeli, Palestinian and European negotiators failed to make progress in a fresh round of talks on opening the Rafah border terminal on the volatile Egypt-Gaza border. Israel closed the terminal when it pulled out of Gaza a month and a half ago, and talks to reopen the border have bogged down.

The border crossing is vital to the impoverished Gaza economy, because it would give Palestinians a gateway to the world. But Israel has security concerns because the border is known as a haven for weapons smuggling from Egypt to Palestinian militants in Gaza.

"And the sad truth is that, today, unfortunately, the Palestinians are just not up to the challenge of policing their own border and preventing extremist, terrorist elements from coming in to the Gaza Strip," Israeli spokesman Mark Regev told VOA.

The Palestinians rejected Israel's demand for a presence on the border, insisting that the occupation should have ended when the last Israeli soldier left Gaza. As a compromise, Israel agreed to allow European inspectors to be posted on the border to prevent smuggling.

"It is going to be the Europeans, I hope, who will supplement the Palestinian forces, and provide professionalism, and provide a presence on the ground that will create, I think, better confidence to reopen all the crossings," said Israeli spokesman Regev.

But the Europeans have balked at Israel's demand that their inspectors arrest anyone suspected of terrorist activity. The Europeans believe that is politically explosive, and they see their role as supervisory. The Palestinians agree.

Talks will continue this week to try to close the gaps.