A government source said Monday that Israel would not allow a United Nations investigation into an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla to question Israeli soldiers. The source said that this "crucial" condition for Israel's cooperation in the investigation was made clear to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The four-member UN panel appointed to investigate the Israeli raid aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists on May 31, was to hold its first meeting with Ban on Tuesday.
The Israeli source said Monday that in accordance with a deal struck between Israel and the UN chief, the UN inquiry would base its conclusions on reports composed by Israeli and Turkish investigation commissions. The source further revealed that under the terms of the deal, any further inquiry the panel would wish to make would have to be coordinated with the appropriate Israeli authorities – whose identity will be determined solely by Israel.
Ban, who said he would meet with the panel at UN headquarters to discuss its mandate on Tuesday, quashed what he called a "rumor" that he had agreed to keep Israel's military forces off limits in the inquiry.
"There was no such agreement behind the scenes," Ban said when asked by reporters whether there was a deal with the Israeli government.
"Their main work will be to review and examine the reports of the national investigations and liaise with the domestic authorities," Ban said. "Whatever is needed beyond that, they will have to discuss among themselves in close coordination with the national government authorities."
The Israeli government last week immediately welcomed the launch of the UN panel while Turkey withheld all reaction.
Israel has also conducted its own military investigation into the incident.
A Turkish diplomat said Ankara, which is one of the 15 UN Security Council members, will ask the UN panel to brief the body directly because it was the council that called for the full investigation and demanded that it be transparent and independent. Ban, who formed the panel on the council's instruction, said the panel will report back to him by mid-September.
Turkey will assume the council's presidency in September.
"The panel will find and review the facts and circumstances that led to the violence onboard one of the ships, and then decide what else is needed to fully investigate the incident," Ban said.
"The panel has a robust mandate to examine and identify the facts, circumstances and contexts of the incident as well as to recommend measures to avoid future incident," Ban told a news conference.
The UN commission is headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and outgoing President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, who will co-chair the investigation. The other members are Ozdem Sanberk of Turkey and Joseph Ciechanover of Israel.
Sanberk has served as ambassador to Spain, France, Britain and Germany, and Ciechanover is an expert on financial and security policy.
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