Israel credits diplomacy for flotilla delays
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Last Updated: Sunday, July 03, 2011, 18:05
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 condemnation.

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.


First Published: Sunday, July 03, 2011, 18:05

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