Gaza flotilla delayed until Sunday

Cypriot government does not allow activists to board from island.

May 28, 2010 19:35
2 minute read.
Palestinian boats.

311 Palestinian boats. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A flotilla trying to break a naval blockade of Gaza is being held up near Cyprus as organizers try to get more than two dozen high-profile activists on board.

The would-be passengers, including 17 European legislators and a Holocaust survivor, were expected to join the ships from Cyprus. Organizer Greta Berlin said Saturday the Cypriot government is not allowing smaller boats to carry the group to the flotilla waiting in international waters.

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Organizers were appealing to the Turkish government to get the group out via a Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus port.

The number of ships has dwindled from eight to five. Berlin said the flotilla is to sail toward Gaza by Saturday afternoon in any event and approach the territory Sunday.

On Friday, Cyprus banned any ship from sailing to Gaza from its shores after the flotilla organizers ignored a government appeal not to involve the island.

Acting government spokesman Titos Christofides did not specify what the organizers had done to trigger the ban. He condemned the 3-year blockade and expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people, but said the appeal was made to protect the island's "vital interests."

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The Cypriot news agency quoted Ministry of Communications and Works official Vasilis Demetriades as saying that the decision had been made in accordance with international law. The Palestinian Authority, he said, had bever demanded that assistance be sent to the Palestinian population in such a form.

'There are closed ports in Cyprus too'

“The activists have informed the Cyprus government and the relevant Ministries about their operation two weeks ago, and it has been clarified to them that Cyprus government did not wish, at the present, to be engaged in their operation," Demetriades was quoted as saying.

Another official told the Cyprus Mail, "Gaza has been declared a closed port by Israel. Imagine what would happen if we allowed these ships to use Cyprus as a staging point for Gaza? There are closed ports in Cyprus too ... How could we continue to use this argument when we ourselves facilitate travel to a closed port in another country?"

Some 750 activists aboard 8 ships are on their way the Gaza coast after setting sail from Ireland, Greece and Turkey carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies.

Israel has vowed to stop the ships. Cyprus is situated some 400 kilometers northwest of Gaza.

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