Gilmore raises issue of flotilla safety

Friday 24 June 2011 12.44
Mavi Marmara - Turkish human-rights activist hold a Palestinian flag hours before the Israeli Navy attack
Mavi Marmara - Turkish human-rights activist hold a Palestinian flag hours before the Israeli Navy attack

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has urged Israel to act with restraint as an international aid flotilla plans to challenge a naval blockade of Gaza.

Minister Gilmore also urged Israel to avoid using military force in dealing with the aid flotilla.

He raised the safety of the flotilla in talks with Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai in Dublin yesterday, a ministry statement said.

On Monday, Irish activists called on Mr Gilmore to seek safe passage for the flotilla to the Palestinian enclave.

About 25 passengers and crew will travel on the ship 'Saoirse' ('Freedom') in the flotilla of about a dozen vessels involving activists from more than 20 countries.

Mr Gilmore said he had made it clear that he could not advise any Irish national to participate in a venture 'which potentially brings them into harm's way through seeking to break a naval blockade'.

'I emphasised, however, to the ambassador that if the flotilla does sail next week, then Israel must exercise all possible restraint and avoid any use of military force if attempting to uphold their naval blockade.

'In particular, I would expect that any interception of ships is conducted in a peaceful manner and does not endanger the safety of our citizens or other participants.

'I urged the ambassador to ensure that this message was relayed to his authorities' Mr Gilmore said.

In May last year, Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists when they boarded a Turkish vessel, the 'Mavi Marmara', during an attempt to break the Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza. That flotilla also included an Irish ship.

'It is incumbent upon all of us interested in promoting a comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbours to avoid any repetition of the completely unacceptable and unjustified violence which marked last year's flotilla,' Mr Gilmore said.

'The Government will continue working with all interested parties in the coming days to ensure this is the case.'

The case of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza for five years, was also discussed and Mr Gilmore reiterated the Government's long-standing call for Sergeant Shalit's immediate release.