The UN's special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said Tuesday that international investigation into the Israeli raid of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla proposed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was still on the table.
The United Nations also said, Israel has agreed to free Gaza aid ship that was attacked by Israel on May 31 in a travel aimed at breaking years of siege.
Serry who addressed Tuesday's meeting on the Middle East at the Security Council referred to Ban's earlier call for establishment of an international investigation committee with the participation of both Turkey and Israel.
Serry also referred to Israeli Premier Benjamin Netenyahu's statement on June 14 that Israel would launch an investigation of its own adding that Ban took note of this initiative. He said the secretary general believed the initiative could be complementary to his call for an international investigation.
The 31 May attack in which Israel raided a six-ship convoy in international waters that was carrying humanitarian goods and activists and heading for Gaza killed nine Turkish civilians, wounding at least 30 others.
"Israel to allow aid cargo"
Serry said, the United Nations was ready to take responsibility for delivery of the aid cargo "on an exceptional basis."
The world body "has obtained the consent of the cargo owners of the three Turkish-registered vessels to take possession of and responsibility for the entire cargo and ensure its timely distribution in Gaza for humanitarian purposes as determined by the United Nations," Serry said.
"The government of Israel has agreed to release the entire cargo to the United Nations in Gaza, again on the understanding that it is for the United Nations to determine its appropriate humanitarian use in Gaza," he added.
Serry said he had reason to believe that the "de facto authorities" in Gaza -- a reference to the Hamas group that controls the Palestinian territory -- would allow the United Nations to determine where the aid went.
Serry, who was making a regular monthly report to the Security Council on the Middle East, said the United Nations would begin the distribution effort as soon as possible.
"Int'l consensus to lift Gaza siege"
Serry said that the recent tragedy involving an aid flotilla intercepted by Israel was just another reminder of why the blockade of the Strip was unsustainable and must end.
"The flotilla crisis is the latest symptom of a failed policy," Robert Serry, told the Security Council in an open briefing. "The closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip needs to come to an end."
"It is much more important to turn our attention to what really needs to be done and needs to happen now, which is an effective end of what has been called the closure policy or the blockade of Gaza," said Serry.
The envoy noted in his briefing that there was now a welcome international consensus on Gaza. He said it was fully agreed by the diplomatic Quartet comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States that there must be a fundamental change to the situation.
He said he had been informed by Israel that it is "conducting a review of its Gaza polic"y, and stressed that it is vital that it results in an end to measures which punish the civilian population.
"The basic principle that should guide the policy on Gaza is clear. Everything should be allowed into Gaza, unless there is a specific and legitimate security reason," he stated.
He added that Israel should therefore move from the current policy, where only about 116 items are approved to enter Gaza, to a policy in which all goods and materials are able to enter Gaza unless there is a legitimate security rationale against it.
He said in remarks to Anadolu news agency, later in the day that they praised Turkish government's facilitative role in allowing UN taking responsibility of the cargo. He said international investigation into the Israeli raid proposed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was still on the table.
Serry said nevertheless that Turkey was free to launch its own investigation.
"Israel's internal probe"
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet voted unanimously to set up an "independent, public commission" headed by retired Israeli Supreme Court judge, Jacob Turkel.
It will include two other Israelis -- an international law expert and a former general -- and two non-voting foreign observers: David Trimble, a Northern Ireland politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Canadian jurist Ken Watkin.
The panel's mandate, as stipulated in an official statement issued on Sunday, did not appear to pose a threat to Netanyahu's political survival as it did not include an examination of his government's decision-making role in the raid.
Instead, it will examine "whether Israel's Gaza blockade and the flotilla's interception conformed with international law and also investigate the actions taken by the convoy's organisers and participants".
Netanyahu has said soldiers and officers who took part in the raid or planned the operation would not testify before the commission.
The panel would be able to use testimony given to a separate military board reviewing operational details of the assault. The civilian commission will publish a report, but it was not immediately clear when it would issue its findings.
Israel rejected a proposal by U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon for an international panel.
On Sunday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the blockade violated the Geneva Conventions and called for its lifting. It said "the whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility".
Arab League chief Amr Moussa visited the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the highest Arab official to do so since 2007, and also called for an end to Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory.
Related news reports:Last Mod: 16 Haziran 2010, 12:11