UK Mideast envoy: Joining Gaza fleet is not a wise decision

Alistair Burt suggests anyone looking to make a humanitarian contribution should do so through recognized ways.

June 29, 2011 02:47
3 minute read.
Alistair Burt

Alistair Burt 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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British citizens should not to take part in the upcoming Gaza flotilla and those looking to provide humanitarian aid to Gazans should do so through existing legal mechanisms, the UK’s visiting Middle East envoy said on Tuesday.

“We do not advise UK nationals to go to Gaza. On account of the uncertain situation there, we do not believe that humanitarian supplies should be delivered by an attempt to land goods through a sea journey", Alistair Burt, Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, told reporters at British Ambassador Matthew Gould’s residence in Ramat Gan.

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“There are recognized ways to get humanitarian aid into Gaza which is supported by the Israeli authorities and the UN, and anyone looking to make a humanitarian contribution should do just that,” Burt said.

He added “I am not keen on the flotilla traveling. As I made clear, I’m sure there is a humanitarian intention behind many of those who take part in it, but there are ways to contribute in humanitarian ways, and this has a clear political aim of challenging the Israeli authorities, and people are entitled to make political gestures, but the UK is also entitled to say whether they consider such gestures to be wise or not, and we don’t consider the flotilla gesture as a wise decision.”

When asked about how the UK would react to the expected UN General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood in September, Burt expressed uncertainty, but added that he hopes the international community focuses on the peace process in the meantime.

“The short answer is we don’t know, we don’t know what resolution will come forward we don’t know if any will in September.

What I’m keen on is that we spend the next few months not chasing around looking for people either to sign a resolution or not sign one, but look towards the things that are necessary to get the negotiated settlement [between Israelis and Palestinians] that we all know is vital.”

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Burt was also asked about why Britain chose to take part in the international coalition against the Gaddafi regime in Libya but has avoided such actions in Syria. Burt described the myriad ways that the international community’s position on the two situations are different, and expressed disappointment at the lack of a unified international voice of condemnation against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

“The UK has taken very similar actions [in Syria], firstly in sanctions in the EU and secondly by trying to get a condemning resolution at the UN, and it’s very clear that we do not have the support for that. I think it is a disgrace that the international community cannot issue a condemnation of Syria though the UN, which I think it should be able to do,” he said.

Burt arrived in Israel on Tuesday morning as part of a three-day trip in which he will meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Shortly after arriving, he visited the Gaza Strip, where he met with UN officials and observed the situation on the ground.

When asked whether Gaza appeared to him to be in the throes of a humanitarian crisis, he said, “It’s a different sort of crisis,” but added that “the pressures on the area are huge therefore the responsibility of Israel and their friends around the world to help ease the situation we think is very strong.”

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