Israel to raise restrictions on Gaza and West Bank as Kerry tries to reach "final" peace deal
Israel will extend the Allenby Bridge's operating hours as part of its initiative to ease restrictions on the Palestinian Territories (Courtesy of Geoffrey Aronson/Al-Monitor)
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Some Israeli restrictions on the impoverished Gaza Strip and West Bank will be eased, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, as a peace deal between with the Palestinians is being negotiated.
The Israeli minister of international relations, Yuval Steinitz, said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly that 5,000 new work permits were being issued for Palestinians to work in Israel, according to Agence France-Presse.
Among other eased restrictions, Steinitz said there would be extended opening hours of the key Allenby Bridge crossing and new imports of some building materials would be allowed into Gaza.
“We have an interest in a strong, viable, prosperous Palestinian economy,” Steinitz told reporters, after ministers from the Middle East Ad Hoc Liaison committee met to discuss progress in the talks so far.
“A better economic climate might help to create a better political climate,” he added.
“And a strong Palestinian economy is good for Israel, it’s good for our economy, it’s good for the general atmosphere.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was planning to step up efforts to help reach an elusive Middle East peace deal, having set an ambitious goal of sealing an agreement within nine months.
He revealed for the first time that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have now met directly seven times since the peace talks were relaunched in late July aiming to create two states, one Israeli and one Palestinian, living side-by-side.
“All of the issues are on the table, territories, security, refugees, Jerusalem, all of the final status issues are on the table,” Kerry stressed.
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