UN chief says Gaza flotilla panel to report in July

Panel created to probe Israeli raid on 'Mavi Marmara' held up by disputes between Turkish and Israeli members.

Mavi Marmara in port 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Mavi Marmara in port 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday a UN panel investigating the Mavi Marmara incident is expected to issue its final report sometime in July.
The report was initially scheduled to be issued on May 15. Israeli officials said it was postponed because the Turkish representative on the panel was unhappy that the findings went a long way toward vindicating Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and did not condemn strongly enough Israel’s use of force.
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Nine Turks on the Mavi Marmara were killed after Israeli commandos were attacked when they landed on the boat to enforce the blockade.
The incident sent Israel-Turkish relations into a tailspin.
“This panel is still discussing the incident,” Ban said. “We will have to set an exact date – they are still working very, very hard.”
The panel, which was appointed by Ban, is headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, and includes former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and both a Turkish and an Israeli representative.
Israeli officials suggested that the Turkish representative on the panel was keen on postponing the presentation of the final report until after Sunday’s Turkish elections, so as not to complicate matters for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan if the report ended up supporting, even in part, Israel’s positions on the legality of the blockade and the soldiers’ actions.
UN officials have said that it may not be able to produce a consensus document.
Regarding another Gaza-bound flotilla expected later this month, Ban noted that he wrote letters to leaders of certain Mediterranean states from which the flotillas might sail, advising against the move.
“I do not have any information on any possible flotilla, but I believe that, at this time, it is very important to avoid any unnecessary confrontation,” Ban said. “We have seen such tragic deaths of nine people during the flotilla incident last year.”
Ban said there were other ways to get supplies to Gaza that would not involve breaching the Israeli blockade.
“There are some land routes, possible land routes – there are some other areas. So wherever it is possible, when there are some other routes, then I would hope that these allowed routes should be used. That is my sincere hope, as a hope to avoid any potential confrontation,” he said.
Israeli officials said that Ban’s position against another flotilla, as well as similar sentiments expressed by other world leaders, had an impact on the Turks, and came from Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu comments on Monday advising organizers of the flotilla to delay its departure until the effects of the Egyptian opening of the Rafah crossing were seen.
According to a report in the Turkish media, this was the first time Davutoglu suggested the flotilla organizers reconsider their plans, having previously rejected international appeals to cancel the attempt to break the blockade.