9th Jul 2020

EU stays quiet on Gaza flotilla enquiry

  • Gaza was left devastated after Israel's bloody assault in 2009, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead and saw a UN report accuse Tel Aviv of war crimes (Photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi)

Diplomatic sources have said the EU plans to wait and see how Israel's enquiry into the Gaza flotilla killings is conducted before taking a firm stand on its legitimacy.

"There was no willingness to approve it or to explicitly disapprove it," an EU diplomat told this website following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday (14 June).

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"Since it was not possible to agree on a judgement, we can always reserve our position and see how it functions in practice. It's a similar situation to the Goldstone enquiry. In the beginning we had our reservations. But in the end it did a good job," the contact added, referring to a recent UN report which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza in 2009.

UK foreign minister William Hague called Israel's proposal a "step forward." French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said only that it should be conducted by "experienced men."

"I still want to look at the detail of how the enquiry is going to be undertaken," EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton said after the Luxembourg meeting. "Will it come up with a credible response which will enable us to see what happened that day?"

Israel late on Sunday said it will hold an internal probe into its attack on the Mavi Marmara ship on 31 May, which saw commandos shoot dead nine Turkish citizens, some at point blank range.

The UN's envoy to the Middle East, former UK leader Tony Blair, negotiated the participation of David Trimble, an Israeli-friendly Northern Ireland politician, as an observer in the investigation. A Canadian jurist, himself implicated in a cover-up of torture in Afghan jails, is to be a second observer.

Turkey and the Palestinian Authority have already rejected the probe. "We have no trust at all that Israel ...will conduct an impartial investigation," Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

"It cannot be considered impartial or independent," Leila Shahid, the Palestinian Authority's envoy to the EU, told EUobserver. "The UN security council has requested an international enquiry with Israeli participation."

Ms Shahid added that the timing of Israel's announcement, on the eve of the Luxembourg meeting, was designed to put the EU on the back foot by not giving ministers enough time to formulate a response. But EU contacts rejected the theory, saying Israel is more interested in US backing than any EU endorsement.

On the underlying subject of getting aid into Gaza, Mr Blair, who attended the Luxembourg event, predicted that Israel will in the "next few days" agree "in principle" to drop its list of just 116 types of items which are allowed into the strip and move instead to a blacklist of forbidden goods.

The EU is keen for Israel to re-open all crossings into Gaza - including access points such as the Kerem Shalom Gaza-Israel crossing, which is equipped to handle large scale imports and exports - under the control of EU monitors.

Ministers on Monday decided to leave the details of the crossing point initiative until their next gathering in July amid ongoing negotiations with Israel, however.

"It all depends how much the Israelis are willing to give and we haven't had any positive signals from them yet. You can wish for the moon, but if the Israeli side doesn't agree, you won't get it," the EU diplomatic source said.

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