UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council called early
Tuesday for an "impartial" investigation of Israel's deadly
commando raid on ships taking humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip
and condemned the "acts" that resulted in the loss of at least
After an emergency meeting and marathon negotiations that lasted
nearly 12 hours, the 15 council members finally agreed on a
presidential statement. It was weaker than what was initially
demanded by the Palestinians, Arabs and Turkey because of
objections by the United States, Israel's closest ally.
The Islamic nations had called for condemnation of Monday's
attack by Israeli forces on the flotilla "in the strongest terms"
and "an independent international investigation."
But the presidential statement that was finally agreed to and
read at a formal council meeting instead called for "a prompt,
impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to
international standards." And it only condemned "those acts"
that resulted in deaths, without naming Israel.
The long and difficult negotiations were conducted primarily by
the United States with Turkey and Lebanon, which are both
non-permanent council members.
Turkey, which had been a close Muslim ally of Israel, used some
of the harshest language against the Jewish state for launching the
raid against the flotilla, which included a Turkish ferry on which
nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed. Hundreds of activists -
many of them Turkish - were taken from the ships to Israel.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose country drafted
the initial presidential statement, called the Israeli raid
"banditry and piracy" on the high seas and "murder conducted by
Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour called it a "war
crime," and told an open Security Council meeting that "those
fleets, one after the other, will be coming until the unethical
blockade is put to an end and the suffering stops for our people."
Organizers of the six-ship Gaza aid flotilla stopped by the
Israelis said they would be sending two more ships to challenge the
blockade within the next few days.
While the Palestinians and Turks insisted that the activists on
the ships were delivering aid to impoverished Gazans suffering
under a three-year Israeli embargo, Israel's deputy U.N. ambassador
Daniel Carmon said "this flotilla was anything but a humanitarian
Some activists have "terrorist history" and its organizers
support radical Islamic groups such as Hamas, which controls Gaza
and refuses to recognize Israel's existence, he said.
Carmon defended the legality of Israel's blockade and the
boarding of the ships - which refused repeated calls to send their
cargo to Gaza through Israel - as "a preventive measure." He
called the results "tragic and unfortunate."
After the presidential statement was read, both sides
immediately disagreed on how the investigation would be conducted.
Mexico's U.N. Ambassador Claude Heller, who took over the
council presidency from Lebanon at midnight, said "impartial"
meant "independent" and that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has
the responsibility to organize the investigation. He also said it
was clear the condemnation referred to the "excessive force" by
the Israeli military.
The Palestinians' Mansour said almost all the members of the
Security Council support Heller's interpretation. He said the
Palestinians and Arabs would press the secretary-general to pursue
an independent investigation.
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said
he doubted the potential "objectivity" and independence of such a
"Considering the countries that support this option, we have
every reason to fear for its independence," Palmor said Tuesday on
French radio France Inter.
U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said Heller's
interpretation is "not our understanding" of the wording
regarding an investigation.
"The secretary-general called for a full investigation, and we
believe the Israelis are capable of conducting a full
investigation," he said. He added that as far as condemnation the
United States did not want to "prejudge any outcomes, or prejudge
The presidential statement also "deeply regrets the loss of
life and injuries" and requests the immediate release of the ships
and civilians being held by Israel. It urges Israel to permit
consular access and allow countries to retrieve their dead and
The council also urged Israel "to ensure the delivery of
humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination" and
stressed that the situation in Gaza "is not sustainable."
Council members reiterated "their grave concern at the
humanitarian situation in Gaza and stress the need for sustained
and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza as well as unimpeded
provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance through
Mansour said this was "the clearest statement by the Security
Council on lifting the siege against the Gaza Strip."
While the Palestinians and their supporters would have liked a
stronger statement, Mansour praised the entire council, including
the U.S., for "acting in a responsible way" and allowing the
council to adopt a statement.
A presidential statement - read by the council president at a
formal meeting - must be approved by all 15 members and becomes
part of the Security Council's official record. But it is not as
strong as a council resolution which can demand that countries take
specific actions, impose sanctions and authorize military
On the broader Mideast, the statement adopted early Tuesday
expressed support for the U.S.-sponsored indirect peace talks
between Israel and the Palestinians.