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Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on August 25 called on his Israeli counterpart to reopen the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Palestinians, arguing that improving Palestinians’ economic status is essential if peace is ever to be established in the Middle East.

Hashimoto told Benjamin Netanyahu that the current ban barring Palestinians from the areas has caused them economic hardships. “It is important to bring economic self-sufficiency and stability to the Palestinians,” Hashimoto was quoted as telling Netanyahu during a luncheon in Tokyo. The embargo is said to be preventing about 100,000 Palestinian workers from reaching their jobs, adding a further impediment to the Middle East peace process.

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