The United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council at the UN headquarters in New York on April 16, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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NEW YORK -The UN committee investigating Israel's May raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza will begin its work today in New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced yesterday. As a result, various key international players are trying to persuade the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to dismantle the flotilla probe it had set up.

Diplomats in New York said several heavyweight countries are now pressing the HRC to cancel its probe and leave the issue to the committee Ban set up. If the HRC fails to accede to this request, they added, it will be setting itself up for humiliation, because the conclusions of Ban's panel will be deemed more credible than those of the HRC panel.

Moreover, they said, refusing to abandon its own probe when a credible UN-sponsored alternative exists would merely reinforce the HRC's image as one-sided and arbitrary.

The diplomats termed the new panel's establishment an "impressive achievement" for Ban, who plans to address its members today before they start work. Ban has been under pressure lately due to scathing criticism of his management by former senior UN officials, who have accused him of doing nothing to root out corruption at the organization and of turning the secretary general's office into an irrelevancy.

"The committee to examine the flotilla incident will serve the secretary general as leverage for rehabilitating his status," said one.

Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, told Haaretz yesterday that "from the standpoint of the level and quality of the people participating in it, the secretary general's committee will obviate any need for the investigation by the council in Geneva."

The panel is being chaired by Geoffrey Palmer, former prime minister of New Zealand, and former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe is the deputy chairman. It will also include one Turkish representative, Ozdem Sanberk, and one Israeli representative, Joseph Ciechanover, both of whom are former senior diplomats. Its mandate is to review the internal investigations carried out by both Israel and Turkey.