UN Security Council condemns Israel | Asia Pacific

UN Security Council condemns Israel

UN Security Council condemns Israel

Updated 6 January 2012, 10:00 AEDT

The United Nations Security Council has condemned the acts that led to ten deaths at sea off the Gaza Strip on Monday.

. and it's demanding an impartial investigation.

The statement from a late night emergency session in New York is very pointed .. but not as tough as an original draft, which would have condemned Israel outright over the commando raid on the aid flotilla that was trying to break the blockade of Gaza.

The United States succeeded in watering down the statement.

But the diplomatic fallout for Israel remains serious, including the most serious rift ever with its only real Muslim ally in the Middle East, Turkey.

Presenter: Linda Mottram

Claude Heller, Mexico's ambassador to the United States; John Holmes, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs; Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister; Kevin Rudd, Australia's Prime Minister.

MOTTRAM: For more than ten hours behind closed doors in New York, the U-N Security Council met in emergency session, grappling with international shock and anger over Israel's deadly commando raid on the activist flotilla off Gaza. Turkey's outrage remains perhaps greatest. Most of those killed were Turkish citizens and the ships were largely Turkish flagged. Ankara had called the raid an act of aggression. In the end, Israel's closest ally the United States succeeded in watering down the original draft.

But the statement agreed by the 15 Security Council member nations remains stern. The text was read by the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, Claude Heller.

HELLER: The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting form the use of force during the Israeli military operation in intenrational waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza. The council in this context condemns those acts.

MOTTRAM: The statement also calls for the immediate release of those detained and their vessels and for Israel to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their dead.

HELLER: And it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.

MOTTRAM: The Security Council also added its voice to mounting calls since the raid on the flotilla for Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip. The statement says the current situation is not sustainable and it stresses the need for sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance there.

Earlier, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordination, John Holmes, had aired that issue. Just off a plane in New York after a visit to Africa, John Holmes spoke to ABC radio in Melbourne.

HOLMES: This blockade has been damaging Palestinian lives, increasing poverty, increasing aid dependency for the last three years since it was imposed in 2006 and tightened in 2007. We've been calling very consistently, pressing Israel for it to be lifted, we've a little bit of success at the margins with some UN projects but the fact is most goods are not allowed in for the moment and that's why we've seen these attempts to run the blockade however not recommended in some ways that is as a method. And it's just a terrible waste of life.

FX: "Free free Palestine" chants fade under.

MOTTRAM: As pro-Palestinian groups mounted protests against Israel in various parts of the world, Israel's government pressed it's claims that it's soldiers had been attacked with various weapons when they boarded the protest boats, and that the protesters had either terrorist links or were sympathisers with the militants Hamas government in Gaza.

Israel's Defence minister Ehud Barak spoke to the BBC before the Security Council statement was issued.

BARAK: I hope that common sense will prevail. We are sorry for the loss of life, but ultimately what really happened though, soldiers were sent by a government to put an end to illegal action by these vessels.

MOTTRAM: And he stressed that Israel lives in a tough neighbourhood where it must be allowed to act against militants firing rockets at civilians on it's territory.

But the view is strong internationally that the blockade of Gaza is at the root of what took place in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean. Half a world away in Australia, the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd echoed it.

RUDD: Such a blockade should be removed. We believed that the people of Gaza, leaving aside the whole question of the long standing dispute and a long standing war, the people of Gaza should be provided with humanitarian assistance.

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