Özdem Sanberk, described as “one of Turkey’s most experienced diplomats”, said in an interview published in Turkey on Monday that his government does not agree with all of the still-unpublished conclusions in a 90-page report of a panel appointed by the UN Secretary General to look into the forceful Israeli interception of the Mavi Marmara on the high seas in the Eastern Mediterranean on 31 May 2010, during which 8 Turkish men and one Turkish American high school student were killed by Israeli forces.
An AFP story that appeared in the first week of July said that the UN report considered these deaths “unacceptable”.
And, Sanberk said today: “obviously we cannot be expected to accept nine deaths”.
The Turkish passenger ship, chartered by the Turkish humanitarian aid organization IHH, was carrying about 600 passengers and crew, and was sailing towards Gaza as part of a “Freedom Flotilla” with a number of other boats carrying international activists and cargoes of humanitarian aid.
The stated aim of the Freedom Flotilla was to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Israel declared a formal naval blockade of Gaza’s maritime space on 3-4 January 2009, as the IDF began the ground phase in its Operation Cast Lead against Hamas.
Sanberk is Turkey’s representative to the panel, which was assembled by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and headed by fFormer New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer. He spoke to the English-language Turkish newspaper, Today’s Zaman, in Istanbul, the paper said, after a week of closed-door negotiations in New York that started at the beginning of July. The paper added that “The report’s publication has been further delayed until the end of July in a [further] attempt to give Turkey and Israel a chance to resolve their differences”.
Sanberk noted that “it is probably the first time in Israel’s history that it is voluntarily taking part in a UN investigation”, and said that Israel seems to have “an attitude of making a diplomatic gesture by accepting the UN investigation. They have repeatedly expressed their demand for understanding in the face of their serious security problems, and expect the same understanding from Turkey, which they see as a friend”.
In the interview, Sanberk said that “The report clearly indicates the responsibility of the Israeli soldiers, while also acknowledging that Israel has security concerns and the Gaza blockade is legal. However, we know that the Israeli blockade of Gaza amounts to collective punishment as it includes civilians, women and children who bear no responsibility for the perceived threat to Israel”.
According to Today’s Zaman, Sanberk “also said that even though these details are not clearly stated in the [UN] panel’s report, another UN body, the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission in Geneva, had said last October that Israel’s military violated international law during the raid”.
“It is interesting to note that two bodies, both under the UN, have conflicting results in their reports”, Sanberk said.