Israeli and Palestine reach deal on reopening Gaza border

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have reached a deal on reopening Gaza's border crossings with Israel and Egypt, Israeli public radio has reported. However, one report quotes Palestinian officials as saying only that good progress has been made in negotiations.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delayed her departure from the Middle East to work through Monday night to achieve and agreement. A deal is seen as crucial for the Gaza economy and Palestinian exports. Ms Rice met Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, following late night talks with Palestinian negotiators. Talks focused on Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt, as well as the Karni crossing point with Israel, both of which have remained closed since Israel pulled its forces out of the Gaza Strip in September.

Earlier this month the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to allow European Union observers to monitor the border crossing point at Rafah, but negotiations are believed to have stalled over Israeli monitoring of the site.

Ms Rice is on her fourth visit to the region this year, and her first since Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip in September.

She had been due to fly to Pusan in South Korea for an Asian regional conference, but delayed her departure in order take part in the negotiations, reports BBC news. I.L.

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