Israel to present its version of ‘Marmara’ incident to UN

UN commission probing flotilla expected to release findings May 15; J'lem sources: New attempt to reach Gaza delayed until after Turkish elections.

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April 27, 2011 00:48
2 minute read.
The 'Mavi Marmara'

The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)

 
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Even as Israel is lobbying world leaders to prevent the launch of another flotilla to the Gaza Strip next month, Israel’s delegation to the United Nations is scheduled Wednesday to present Jerusalem’s version of last year’s Mavi Marmara incident to a UN probe still investigating that matter.

The Turkish delegation was to present its case on Tuesday to the committee, headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, and including former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, as well as Israeli and Turkish representatives Joseph Ciechanover and Ozden Sanberk.

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In its presentation, the Israeli delegation is expected to lean heavily on the Turkel Commission report published in January which found that both Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, and Israel’s operation on May 31 to keep the Mavi Marmara from breaking the naval blockade, were in accordance with international law.

The UN commission is expected to release its findings on the incident on May 15.

In a related development, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted Monday in the Sydney Morning Herald as urging Israel “not to repeat the same mistake” it made last year.

On May 31, 2010, IDF commandos boarded and stopped the Mavi Marmara, killing eight Turkish civilians and a Turkish American after coming under attack.

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“It is Israel’s responsibility not to implement [a blockade] against Gaza,” Davutoglu said.

“In the flotilla last year, people were killed 72 miles [116 kilometers] from the coast, so this was in international waters. The Mediterranean does not belong to any nation.”

Israel asked the Turkish authorities earlier this month to prevent another flotilla, originally scheduled to set sail in mid-to-late May to mark the anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident.

“We can advise, we can say something, but we cannot stop” the flotilla, Davutoglu told the Herald. He claimed the Turkish government urged the Turkish organization IHH not to sail last year, but “in a democratic society, we cannot stop them.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, is expected to convene a forum of senior ministers on Wednesday to discuss the planned flotilla.

This meeting comes amid reports reaching Jerusalem that the IHH will postpone the next flotilla until mid-to-late June, after the Turkish elections set for June 12. With Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan playing for centrist votes in the upcoming elections, the IHH, according to sources in Jerusalem, does not want to do anything that could alienate those voters from Erdogan.

Other groups participating in the flotilla, according to sources in Jerusalem, are finding it difficult raising the money needed to buy a ship to set sail.

In a related development, US President Barack Obama, in a phone conversation he had with Erdogan on Monday, expressed to the Turkish prime minister – according to a statement put out by the White House – his hope that “Turkey and Israel will find opportunities to improve their relations in the interest of regional stability.”

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