Israel lauds Gaza smuggling plan

US, Canada and 7 European states to coordinate efforts to stop the flow of weapons into Strip.

smuggling tunnel renovation 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
smuggling tunnel renovation 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel welcomed a weekend agreement by the US, Canada and seven European states to coordinate efforts to stop the flow of weapons into Gaza. Representatives of the nine countries, at a meeting in London on Friday, agreed on a series of measures including maritime interception, information sharing and diplomatic pressure. Israeli representatives attended the gathering as observers, but the Egyptian government declined an offer to participate. The Palestinian Authority also did not attend, officials said. British officials said it was agreed to use existing United Nations resolutions as a legal basis for their efforts rather than seek new legal authority to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza. Mark Regev, the spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, described the action plan as an important development. "This is a sign of the international community's commitment to dealing with the issue of illicit weapons transfer from Iran to Gaza, and Israel of course supports such efforts," Regev said. "The principle is clear: The international community will act to prevent the transfer of weapons." The US and Britain were joined by Norway, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark in the campaign. The meeting in London on Friday followed one in Denmark last month. A senior British diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said the nine countries, all NATO members, agreed that "noncoercive" methods would be used to clamp down on the arms flow. That means, he said, that any vessel whose captain refuses to allow the ship to be boarded for an inspection will not be forced to submit to the procedure. Officials said diplomatic, military, intelligence and law enforcement resources would be used against arms smugglers, but cautioned that it would take time to shut down the well-established smuggling routes into Gaza. The group agreed to hold meetings in Canada next month to work out details, the officials said. A statement spelling out the strategy would be posted on the Foreign Office Web site Monday, officials said. Western diplomats hope to prevent another round of fighting in part from cutting off the arms flow, much of which is said to arrive by sea.