Israel over the weekend announced that Yosef Ciechanover will be its representative on the UN panel established to review the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident, joining a Turkish former diplomat who has already determined that Israel’s actions violated international law.

Ciechanover, who has served in the past as director-general of the Foreign Ministry, legal adviser to the Defense Ministry, and head of the defense mission to the US, will join seasoned diplomat Özdem Sanberk, whom United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced will be Ankara’s representative on the four-man panel.

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Both Ciechanover and Sanberk, the Secretary General's office stated, have "distinguished records of public service."

Sanberk, a former undersecretary at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, has served as ambassador to London and to the EU in Brussels. He is presently a member of a Turkish think tank called the Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies.

In an June interview posted on the Web site of that organization, Sanberk – asked about the flotilla incident that left nine Turkish men dead after Israel Navy commandos who were lowered onto the ship to stop it from breaking the blockade came under attack – said, “Using extreme power is a crime against humanity; it is the violation of international law.

“It [Israel] caused deaths by intermeddling a civilian ship that was sailing in international waters, like it did in Gaza,” Sanberk said. “Unarmed civilians protected themselves against Israeli commandos with tools like sticks and a sling in a ship that was sailing in international waters does not justify these soldiers to kill nine civilians. The act of Israeli government is violation of international law. Israel should apologize and pay compensation.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman chose Ciechanover after he was recommended by a panel, headed by National Security Council head Uzi Arad, that was looking for someone with both a diplomatic and security background.

Ciechanover headed the committee that investigated the botched attempt on the life of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Jordan in 1997. That committee exonerated Netanyahu of any wrong doing in the Mashaal affair, which occurred during his first term as prime minister.

In an apparent effort to ease the tension with Turkey, the inner cabinet last Monday decided to take part in the UN panel, which sources in the Prime Minister’s Office described on Saturday night as a review – not investigative – panel.

The UN panel, head by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, is expected to begin its work on Tuesday. In addition to Palmer, an expert on maritime law, the panel will include the outgoing president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe. It is expected to deliver a progress report by mid-September and its final report in February 2011.

Meanwhile, the Mavi Marmara and two other Turkish vessels that Israel impounded after the raid, but released on Thursday, arrived on Saturday in Turkey. Despite a Foreign Ministry message sent to Ankara saying that it expected Turkey would prevent other Turkish vessels from violating the blockade of Gaza, a board member of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), an Islamic charity that Israel maintains has connection to terrorist groups and was behind the flotilla, vowed to send more ships, including the ones just returned, if the blockade continued.

“If the problem is not solved, many flotillas... will sail to Gaza. If necessary, these boats can also be used for this,” Huseyin Oruc, an IHH board member, told Reuters. IHH owns the ships.

“We have purchased these three boats for Palestinian needs. If it is necessary, we can use easily use them. These boats are humanitarian boats,” he said.

He said activists from all over the world would continue to press Israel to lift restrictions on Gaza.

“We will all unite and go again and again until this blockage is completely lifted,” Oruc said in a news conference at the harbor where the Mavi Marmara docked.

On Wednesday, European representatives of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, an umbrella group, met in Stockholm to plan a new Gaza flotilla with up to 12 ships.

Jordanna Horn and AP contributed to this report.

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