Israel threatens to quit UN inquiry into flotilla raid

Israel threatened to pull out of a UN inquiry into a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.

Updated: Aug 10, 2010, 17:59 PM IST

Jerusalem: Israel on Tuesday threatened to pull out of a UN inquiry into a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship if the panel insists on quizzing its soldiers, days after making a surprise announcement that it would cooperate with the probe committee.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had last week announced that his government would cooperate with the UN panel of enquiry into the May 31 raid that left nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists dead, saying "Israel had nothing to hide".

However, Israeli officials said the agreement to take part in the UN probe was conditional on the panel relying on reports from Israel`s own military inquiry, not testimony from soldiers.

But, UN chief Ban, in response to a question from reporters at the UN headquarters in New York yesterday, said "there was no such agreement behind the scenes."

In the wake of Ban`s rejection of the "agreement" as rumours, the PMO here said in a statement that "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes it absolutely clear that Israel will not cooperate with and will not take part in any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers."

"This was and remains a critical condition for Israel`s participation," an Israeli official further asserted.

The UN chief`s remarks yesterday came ahead of the first meeting of the international inquiry committee, which includes former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and representatives from Israel and Turkey.

Ban also said the panel is supposed to work with the Israeli and Turkish panel of inquiries.

"And whatever is needed beyond that, they will have to discuss among themselves, in close coordination with the national government authorities, that they can take their own future steps," he said.

The surprise development came just hours after Netanyahu testified before an Israeli panel of inquiry into the deadly raid in which he defended his army`s action accusing Turkey of deliberately seeking violent confrontation.