9th Jul 2020

EU expected to back Israel's flotilla probe plan

  • The killings aboard the Mavi Marmara - which saw commandos shoot Turkish citizens in the head at close range - have caused international outrage (Photo: FreeGazaMovement)

EU foreign ministers are likely to endorse Israel's model for an enquiry into the Gaza flotilla killings and to propose a new "mechanism" for letting aid into the Hamas-controlled strip.

A senior EU diplomatic source on Monday morning (14 June) told EUobserver there is a "good chance" that EU foreign ministers meeting later in the day in Luxembourg will back Israel's plan for a probe into the killing of nine Turkish citizens in international waters last month.

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Israel on Sunday said it will mount an "independent public commission" led by a retired judge, Jacob Turkel, to see if its commandos broke international law during the raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in the Mediterranean Sea on 31 May.

Two international observers, Northern Ireland peace process veteran David Trimble and Canadian jurist Ken Watkin, are to have observer status but no voting rights in the panel.

Both men could prove sympathetic to Israel's use of deadly force. Mr Trimble two weeks ago founded a "Friends of Israel Initiative" to combat what it calls an "international delegitimisation campaign" against the Jewish state. Mr Watkin is currently embroiled in a political dispute in Canada over an alleged cover-up of torture in Afghan jails.

The White House in a statement on Sunday called the Israeli enquiry model "impartial, credible and transparent."

The EU ministers will in Luxembourg also consider Spanish proposals for an EU statement urging Israel to enable the flow of humanitarian aid and commercial goods into Gaza, a strip of land controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has been all-but-cut-off from the outside world for the past three years.

Spanish daily El Pais cites "diplomatic sources" as saying the EU has designed a new "mechanism" to make sure the re-opening of Gaza does not help Hamas to rearm.

Under the blueprint, the EU would station monitors at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel and in Cyprus, in order to inspect any future aid ships heading for the strip. In return, Israel would provide a short blacklist of banned goods, while dropping its current "white list" of permitted items.

The International Red Cross over the weekend described the Gaza blockade as "collective punishment" of Palestinian people. The Jersualem-based B'tselem NGO said the blockade has led to the closure of 95 percent of Gaza's factories and workshops.

The Luxembourg meeting will see the UN's special envoy to the Middle East, former UK leader Tony Blair, brief the EU ministers. "As fast as the next few days I hope we can get significant movement on this [the Gaza blockade]," Mr Blair said on Sunday after talks with the Israeli Prime Minister and the German foreign minister in the past few days.

The EU's foreign relations chief, Catherine Ashton, who will chair Monday's meeting, will on Tuesday in Luxembourg have to sell the EU position to delegates from Beirut and Algeria in previously-planned diplomatic encounters.

Spain has sidelined Ms Ashton's office in the EU's handling of the flotilla affair.

Its foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, himself a former Middle East envoy, put forward the draft EU proposal last week. Spanish Prime Minister Jorge Luis Zapatero endorsed it in Madrid on Saturday after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. A Spanish diplomat also flew to Washington over the weekend to sound out opinion, the Jerusalem Post reports.

"She has no staff, no diplomatic service, nobody to help her," an EU diplomat told this website, contrasting the resources of the Spanish foreign ministry with Ms Ashton's small private office in Brussels.

In a separate development, Polish authorities have confirmed that they detained an Israeli citizen traveling under the name of Uri Brodsky in early June in line with a European Arrest Warrant issued by Germany.

German magazine Der Spiegel broke the story, saying the man is wanted in connection with planning the assassination of a senior Hamas leader in Dubai earlier this year, a killing widely believed to have been carried out by the Israeli secret service.

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