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09-26-2010, 10:00 AM
UN: Under UN roof, Gül urges Israel to offer apology



An annual gathering of the 192-nation United Nations has offered Turkey's president, Abdullah Gül, an opportunity to reiterate his country's firm demand that Israel offer a formal apology, and compensation, for its May 31 military raid on a humanitarian aid boat which left nine persons dead.


Addressing the 65th annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday, Gül underlined the importance that Turkey attached to maintaining peace in the Middle East, while he also voiced support for US President Barack Obama's efforts towards this goal. “On the other hand, it would be very difficult to make progress towards permanent peace unless we put an end to the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza.

In this context, the attack of the Israeli armed forces on the international humanitarian aid convoy, in high seas, last May resulted in grave civilian casualties and was an unacceptable act in clear violation of international law,” Gül said.

“In the light of international law, Turkey’s expectation is a formal apology and compensation for the aggrieved families of the victims and the injured people. Therefore, we attach particular importance to the work of the Panel of Inquiry and the Fact-Finding Mission. We are pleased to have the report of the Fact Finding Mission of UN Human Rights Council. The report offers a solid legal framework for establishing the facts about this incident. We also look forward to successful completion of the work of the Panel,” he said, referring to a recent UN report by the Geneva-based council and a separate UN inquiry established in early August by the UN secretary-general.

The 56-page document – which called the military raid on the flotilla brutal and disproportionate -- listed a series of crimes committed by Israeli forces, including willful killing and torture, and maintained there was “clear evidence to support prosecutions.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry, in a written statement released late on Thursday, welcomed the report. Similarly, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoðlu earlier described it as a neutral report, based on sound evidence and which employed solely legal terminology.

“On the occasion of the report, the public opinion of Israel -- perhaps for the first time -- has received information from a neutral party concerning the violence and inhumane treatment by the Israeli security forces against members of the convoy while on the ship and later when they were under custody. We expect Israeli authorities to take the necessary lesson from the report, to offer apology via accepting responsibility, and to pay compensation to those who were injured, to families of those who lost their lives during the attack and to those passengers whose personal belongings were seized during the intervention,” the ministry said, urging the UN inquiry panel to carefully asses the report during their work.

The report described the Israeli raid on May 31, in which eight Turkish activists and one Turkish-American aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of the aid flotilla’s six vessels owned by a Turkish charity, were shot and killed, as “clearly unlawful.”

Tension between Israel and Turkey peaked in the aftermath of Israel’s May 31 raid. Ankara has recently made clear that relations must be normalized via a fulfillment of Turkey’s conditions on Israel. Following the May 31 incident, Israel has said the soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked as they boarded the Mavi Marmara. Turkey, on the other hand, is demanding an apology from Israel and compensation for the families of the victims.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called the report “biased and distorted” and said that the group responsible for the report was “obsessed with targeting Israel.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has, meanwhile, ordered the establishment of a “command post” in New York in an effort to counter the report, Yediot Ahronot’s news website, Ynetnews, reported.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who is currently in New York, set up the command post along with Ambassador to the UN Meron Reuben and Consul General Ido Aharoni in order to coordinate Israel’s diplomatic and public relations activities in response to the report, Ynetnews said.

The issue of the Mavi Marmara was also discussed during a bilateral meeting between Davutoðlu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Gül chairs Security Council summit
The UN Security Council, under Turkey’s presidency, held a summit on Thursday on improving its role in the maintenance of peace and security around the world. The review of peacekeeping was selected as the summit focus by Gül, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the council.

Gül said the council’s agreement on new goals constituted “a bold and coherent vision” that would strengthen UN efforts at diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building.

The Security Council statement said that peace-building “requires an integrated and comprehensive approach that takes into account a broad range of objectives -- political, security, development, human rights and humanitarian.”

Gül, meanwhile, had a bilateral meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the General Assembly. He also talked with both US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Clinton.