Monday, August 2, 2010

PM Netanyahu: Israel will participate in UN Flotilla Probe to reveal the factual truth

Israel's participation in the United Nations probe of its deadly naval raid of a humanitarian aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip is meant to reveal the facts of the incident to the whole world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday.

The panel will investigate the events of the Israel Navy's May 31 commando raid of a six-ship flotilla, which left nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists dead. Israel had balked at the UN request in the past, but has faced international pressure to allow for an external probe into the matter.

Earlier Monday, the PM had reportedly called UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to inform him of the Forum of Seven senior ministers' decision to participate in the international inquiry.

This is the first time Israel has ever agreed to participate in a UN probe regarding the Israel Defense Forces. It is also the first time Israel will be represented on a UN committee dealing with its activities.

In Monday's statement, Netanyahu said that Israel had decided to be a part of the probe since it had "nothing to hide."

"The opposite is true," the premier said, adding that it was in "Israel's national interest to ensure that the factual truth regarding the flotilla incident would be exposed for the world to see," saying truth was "the principle we are promoting through this decision."

The statements came after the Forum of Seven senior ministers decided earlier Monday that Israel must accept the United Nations' proposal to establish an international panel of inquiry into its deadly naval raid on a humanitarian aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip.

The Forum of Seven ruled that it would give UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a positive response, in principle, to allow him to move forward with establishing the panel of inquiry. Simultaneously, negotiations will continue regarding who will comprise the committee and the composition of its mandate.

Corresponding with Netanyahu's affirmation of Israel's participation, UN Secretary General Ban officially announced Israel's participation in the international inquiry, calling it an "unprecedented development."

Ban said that he had "engaged in intensive consultation with the leaders of Israel and Turkey on the setting-up of a Panel of Inquiry on the flotilla incident," saying he was very pleased to announce the launch of the Panel."

"I thank the leaders of the two countries with whom I have engaged in last
minute consultations over the weekend, for their spirit of compromise and
forward looking cooperation," Ban said.

Ban also announced those who are planned to head the UN inquiry, saying the "panel will be led by eminent personalities: former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Geoffrey Palmer as Chair and the outgoing President of Colombia, Mr. Alvaro Uribe as Vice-Chair."

"The Panel will have two additional members, one each from Israel and Turkey. It will begin its workon 10 August and submit the first progress report by mid September," the UN chief added.

Bad said he hoped "the Panel will fulfill its mandate based on the Presidential Statement of the Security Council and with the fullest cooperation of the relevant national authorities of the two countries."

"It will also give me recommendations for the prevention of similar incidents in the future. I also hope that today's agreement will impact positively on the relationship between Turkey and Israel as well as the overall situation in the Middle East," Ban said.