Israel credits diplomacy for flotilla delays

Israel`s Foreign Minister credited Israeli diplomatic efforts for the delays that have kept an aid flotilla from setting sail for Gaza.

Jerusalem: Israel`s Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman on Sunday credited Israeli diplomatic efforts for the
delays and setbacks that have kept an aid flotilla from
setting sail for Gaza.

"I welcome all the efforts that have been made to stop
the flotilla," Lieberman said on Israeli military radio. "The
success of these efforts on the diplomatic side ... are the
fruits of intensive contacts with states in the region and the
international community."

A flotilla of 11 ships carrying aid and pro-Palestinian
activists had planned to set sail for the Gaza Strip last
week, with several vessels expected to make the trip from
Greece, where they had docked while the flotilla formed.

But their plans to break Israel`s blockade on the
Palestinian territory have been beset by problems, including
damage to at least two vessels, and Greece`s refusal to let
several ships set sail from its ports.

Activists on board the ships have accused Israel of
sabotaging the damaged vessels and putting political pressure
on the Greek government to keep the remaining boats docked.

But much of the international community, including the
Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators -- the United
Nations, United States, European Union and Russia, has also
expressed opposition to the flotilla`s mission.

The ships were scheduled to set sail a little more than a
year after Israeli commandos raided a similar flotilla,
killing nine Turkish activists and prompting widespread

Israel had insisted it would not allow the new flotilla
to breach its blockade, which was imposed in 2006 after
Gaza-based militants snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit,
and tightened a year later when Hamas took control of Gaza.

The restrictions were eased in the wake of criticism of
Israel`s raid on the first flotilla, but the Jewish state
continues to limit the flow of goods and people into and out
of the Gaza Strip.

It has accused the activists on board the latest flotilla
of links to terrorism and warned that its restrictions on Gaza
are intended to prevent Hamas, a designated terrorist group,
from obtaining weapons and money.


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