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Friday, July 08, 2011

UN Flotilla report delayed as Israel and Turkey negotiate

From Hurriyet Daily News:
A U.N. panel inquiry’s report on Israel’s attack last year on a Turkish-flagged Gaza-bound aid flotilla has been delayed because the countries have not yet reached a consensus on the matter, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official has said.

In the run-up to the U.N. report’s release, Israeli and Turkish representatives have been holding talks in New York since Tuesday in order to find a compromise on the wording of a statement regarding the May 31, 2010, Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara ship, which resulted in the death of eight Turks and one Turkish-American.

The parties have been seeking reconciliation on a statement before the release of the report, which was to be released Thursday.

Asked if the parties had reached a consensus on the statement, the Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News that “we are not there yet.”

Ankara has repeated its demand that Israel offer an apology and compensation for the families of those killed and wounded in Israel’s attack on the ship, Turkey’s foreign minister said.

“We have been saying the same thing since last year. Israel must apologize and pay compensation. This is our principal stance on the issue,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters on Wednesday.

However, Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman restated his opposition to Israel offering an apology to Turkey over the incident on Wednesday.

“An apology is not a compromise, it is a humiliation and it is an abandonment of IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] soldiers,” he was quoted as saying by the Jerusalem Post at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “We regret the loss of life of people from any nation. There are things we can discuss and things we cannot. We cannot discuss things that will harm Israel. National honor has a real significance. We expect flexibility from the Turkish side as well.”

Davutoğlu confirmed that Turkish and Israeli officials were holding talks on normalizing relations. It was natural for Turkish and Israeli authorities to hold talks to meet Turkey’s demands and such talks should not be viewed as an extraordinary development, the minister stated.

Meanwhile, Israel and Turkey have not yet agreed on the report of the U.N. panel, which Ankara, on legal grounds, insists should not contradict with the findings of a previously released U.N. Human Rights Council report.

Davutoğlu highlighted that the report of the U.N. panel led by Geoffrey Palmer must be in compliance with “criteria of international law.”

“An attitude contradicting with the U.N. Human Rights Council is unacceptable,” he added. “We hope Israel will meet our rightful demands on this issue.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council said in 2010 that Israel’s military broke international laws during the raid. The report said Israel used excessive force, but implied Israel used “its legal right to impose a naval blockade against the Gaza Strip,” a finding which could pave the way for further interventions by Israel in the Mediterranean Sea, Turkish officials said.
This makes it sound like the sides are very far apart.

I admit I do not quite understand why a UN report that deals with the conduct of nations needs to have those nations' approval to be released. This certainly wasn't the case with any anti-Israel reports the UN has issued.

How can Turkey insist that a legal expert change his opinion on a legal issue?

Perhaps the delay is because the UN believes that a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel is a higher goal, but to change the report based on that still seems very strange, and calls into question the legitimacy and objectivity of every UN report.

But here's how the UN explains it:
U.N. spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters on Tuesday that more time was needed.

“I don’t think we are yet at the point where the report would be handed over,” he said.

Nesirky responded to some allegations that the language of the report could be toned down.

“What I would say is what we said at the time; and that is that there is clearly a need for the parties concerned to find consensus on the report, and the wording of the report. And that’s why more time was given,” he said.
The reported issues that divide the two seem to be more than just language, though.