UN Report: Gaza Blockade Legal, Israel Doesn't Owe Turkey Apology for Marmara

UN investigative committee, headed by Geoffrey Palmer, expected to present report to the UN Secretary General's office Thursday.

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The UN report on last year's Gaza flotilla clash found that Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip is legal and that Jerusalem owes no apology to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara raid, diplomatic sources said.

The UN investigative committee, headed by Geoffrey Palmer, is expected to present its report to the UN Secretary General's office today, but it is not clear if it will be released, since Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is not in New York.

The draft report was sent to both Israel and Turkey. Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem who saw the draft report said it sharply criticizes Turkey for not doing enough to prevent the flotilla from setting sail and for conducting a tendentious investigation into the events.

In contrast, the report said that the Turkel Committee, which led Israel's official flotilla probe, had conducted a professional and independent investigation.

There is some criticism for Israel, however. The report says Israeli commandos used excessive force against the Mavi Marmara's passengers, though Israel had insisted the soldiers had been attacked and were acting in self-defense.

Nine Turkish nationals were killed by IDF soldiers during the clash that broke out when the troops intercepted the Marmara.

And while international law does allow for ships to be intercepted far from a country's territorial waters under these circumstances, Israel would have been better off waiting until the flotilla was closer to the blockade line and was 20 miles from shore, the report said.

But Palmer did not demand that Israel apologize to Turkey, suggesting that it express sorrow over the casualties instead. Nor did the report demand that Israel pay any compensation. Should it choose to, it could put money into a special humanitarian fund set up for this purpose, Palmer added.

Meanwhile, efforts in New York to reach a reconciliation with Turkey remained deadlocked, as neither side is willing to budge on the issue of an Israeli apology.

Officials on both sides were reportedly eager to reach a compromise before the report is released, believing that once the report lays blame, it will be harder for the two countries to come to terms.

But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan instructed the Turkish negotiators not to back down on the demand for an official Israeli apology. Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon told Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu that Israel would not apologize, but would express sorrow over the results.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, "An apology is not a compromise, as far as I'm concerned it's a humiliation and it's forsaking IDF soldiers. We regret the killing of people from all organizations, kinds and countries. There are things we're ready to discuss and there are things we won't.

"I'm not willing to see Israel's national honor being injured; it has real, not abstract meaning in the Middle East," he said.



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