Quartet says Gaza-bound flotillas should be discouraged

Mideast peace negotiators concerned about "unsustainable conditions" for Gaza people but recognizes Israel's "legitimate security concerns."

mavi marmara flotilla_311 reuters (photo credit: Osman Orsal / Reuters)
mavi marmara flotilla_311 reuters
(photo credit: Osman Orsal / Reuters)
UNITED NATIONS - The Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators on Saturday said it is concerned about "unsustainable conditions" facing people in Gaza but said additional flotillas should be discouraged.
For the second year in a row, international activists have been assembling in the Mediterranean on an assortment of boats, planning to challenge the sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.
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The Quartet -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- said in a statement it "remains concerned about the unsustainable conditions facing the civilian population in Gaza but notes that efforts have improved conditions over the last year."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has previously represented the UN at Quartet meetings.
The Quartet said there had been a marked increase in the range and scope of goods and materials moving into Gaza. However, it said "considerably more needs to be done to increase the flow of people and goods to and from Gaza, including a liberalization of the market in aggregate, steel bar and cement."
The Quartet's statement said it recognizes that Israel "has legitimate security concerns that must continue to be safeguarded" and it was committed to working with Israel, Egypt and the international community to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza.
It urged those wishing to deliver goods to the people of Gaza to do so through "established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via established land crossings."
The Quartet said it "regrets the injury and deaths caused by the 2010 flotilla" and "urges restraint and calls on all governments concerned to use their influence to discourage additional flotillas, which risk the safety of their participants and carry the potential for escalation."
In May of last year, IDF troops intercepted a six-ship flotilla in international waters and killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American aboard one vessel, the Mavi Marmara.
The Quartet also called in Saturday's statement for an end to the "deplorable five-year detention of Gilad Shalit."