Blair: Aid flotillas not helpful

Quartet envoy asks Lebanese Gaza-bound ships to reconsider journey.

Tony Blair- expressive 311 (photo credit: AP)
Tony Blair- expressive 311
(photo credit: AP)
Quartet Representative Tony Blair Friday urged the Lebanese flotilla intent on heading towards Gaza this weekend to reconsider its journey.
"I urge the Lebanese aid ship to reconsider its intention to set sail to the Gaza shores to deliver aid to the people. As the UN Under-Secretary General said yesterday, such convoys are not helpful, do not resolve the economic difficulties in Gaza and carry the risk of escalation needlessly," said Blair.
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He added, "There are now established channels for delivering aid and other goods to Gaza, in line with the new policy which we have worked on for several weeks. The organizers should take advantage of these channels to transfer the goods to Gaza.”
The UN said Friday that organizations wishing to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip should do so by land and not attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the territory by sea with flotillas, AFP reported.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky made the statement at a press briefing amid reports that a flotilla of two vessels from Lebanon was planning to leave for Gaza on Friday or Saturday.
"Our stated preference has been and remains that aid should be delivered by established routes, particularly at a sensitive time in indirect proximity (peace) talks between Palestinians and Israelis," said Nesirky.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday that the planned Lebanese flotilla is an “unnecessary provocation” and Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible to prevent the ships from trying to sail to break the Israel-imposed sea blockade on Gaza.
Barak said that if the cargo the ships were carrying was of a humanitarian nature it would be allowed into Gaza via the Ashdod Port and land crossings Israel controls into Gaza.
 “If the ships refuse to accompany the Navy to Ashdod, we will have no choice but to stop it at sea,” Barak said.
Defense officials said that the Navy had deployed ships at sea to stop the Lebanese boats and that teams of commandos from the Navy’s Flotilla 13 – known as the Shayetet – were put on standby in case they would be needed to board the ships and prevent them from sailing into the Gaza Strip. The organizer behind the ships is Yasser Kashlak, a Syrian national of Palestinian origin.