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Updated: June 1, 2010 18:53 IST

UN resolution ‘unacceptable’, says Israeli Minister

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Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman attends a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday. Photo: AP.
Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman attends a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday. Photo: AP.

A UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for its navy raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip, was “unacceptable and did not advance peace and stability in the Middle East, ” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday.

A statement issued by the minister’s office said Mr. Lieberman also told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in a telephone conversation, that the “hypocrisy and double standards of the international community concerning Israel” should be “regretted.” Monday’s pre-dawn raid by the Israeli navy commandos on the six-ship flotilla, which carried pro-Palestinian activists and tonnes of aid for blockaded Gaza , led to violent clashes on board one of the ships which left nine activists dead.

Mr. Lieberman told Mr. Ban that while the international community remained silent during the past month when “500 people were killed in various incidents in Thailand, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and India,” Israel “was condemned for taking a clear defensive action.” He said the Israeli troops who battled the activists on board the ship had the “basic right” to defend themselves against a group wielding iron bars, clubs and knives.

Ashton tells Palestinians she will do more to end Gaza siege

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, on Tuesday told Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad she was “willing to step up efforts” to end the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, an EU spokesman said in Brussels.

The telephone conversation took place a day after an attempt by a flotilla of six boats carrying humanitarian aid to break the embargo of the strip was violently quashed by the Israeli army. At least nine activists were killed in the confrontation.

The incident sparked anger throughout the Arab world, and fueled speculation that the Palestinians might break off indirect peace talks with the Israelis that the United States started a few weeks ago.

Ms. Ashton stressed “the importance of proceeding with the peace talks, ideally with direct talks,” but also told Fayyad she “fully understands Arab League and Palestinian Authority concerns.” The EU’s foreign policy director also asked Mr. Fayyad about the chances of Palestinian reconciliation. Currently, the West Bank is run by the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority, while the Gaza Strip is run by Hamas, which the EU and the US shun, as they consider it to be a terrorist organization.

Ms. Ashton suggested that the Palestinian Authority’s President, Mahmoud Abbas, should visit Gaza, and told Mr. Fayyad she was willing to meet him during his visit to Brussels, planned for mid—July.

On Monday, the EU’s foreign policy chief spoke on the phone with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and issued two statements calling, among other things, for an “immediate, sustained and unconditional opening” of the Gaza border crossings and for an “immediate, full and impartial inquiry” on the flotilla attack.

France calls for lifting of blockade

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday called for an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, on the sidelines of a Franco-African summit in Nice, France.

“This catastrophe was predictable,” he said, referring to Israel’s storming of a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza on Monday, in which at least nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed.

He also announced a joint initiative with the US, in which the two countries would work together to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

“They must talk directly to each other,” he said. It was time that the region’s politicians became real statesmen and ended the conflict, he continued.

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