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Flotilla operation in Gaza: the EU calls for an "impartial" investigation. The discussion at COPS (maj1)

(B2) Urgently convened in the morning, the meeting of the ambassadors of the COPS (the Political and Security Committee) of the EU, Monday May 31, was essentially devoted to drafting a declaration intended both to deplore the loss of life as well as calling for an international investigation and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. A statement that was slightly toughened compared to the first statement by the EU's chief diplomat, Catherine Ashton (read: The Israeli assault on the “peace flotilla” poses a problem for the EU (maj4)).

The discussion was not easy according to the information obtained. It lasted several hours. The subject “Israel/Palestine” continues to divide Europeans. Between the Swedes or Greeks on one side (for a tough resolution), the Czechs and Dutch on the other (for the most consensual resolution possible), we find the whole range of possible opinions. The Czechs, in particular, even considered that there was no room for resolution and broadcast a diplomatic telex to this effect before the meeting to all their counterparts.

Among the points of discussion, the way of qualifying the events, the nature of the victims, the conditions of the investigation, the other actions to be taken (the suspension of the association agreement did not collect opinions majority, but the question is now asked).

An “impartial”, in other words international, investigation calls for the EU

Finally, the 27 agreed on a declaration text (read below) that was significantly tougher, asking in particular
investigation "impartial, complete and immediate” to shed light on the events, in other words an international investigation as an expert on the subject explained to me, where Lady Ashton requested a simple investigation by the Israeli authorities. Which, on a diplomatic level, is a singular difference.

The declaration also reminds Israel of its international obligations, in particular to “urgently” allow member states consular access to their citizens currently detained (the six ships of the flotilla were diverted to Ashdod and several people detained after interrogation).

The 27 also decided that this declaration should be delivered at a high level (probably to the Israeli Prime Minister) by one of the EU representatives present in the country. Other initiatives which will be specified in the hours or days that follow, such as the convening of a high-level meeting of the Quartet.

NATO very embarrassed

On the NATO side, the reaction was very measured, cautious, even embarrassed. The NATO Secretary General only took up his pen in the middle of the afternoon. And still it was the minimum service, to regret the lives lost and wait to know more before reacting: “ NATO is deeply concerned about the loss of life in this incident. We look forward to a further establishment of the facts of what has happened. » A caution that is undoubtedly necessary given the confusion but which stands out notably. Turkey – flag state of the Mavi Marmara – requested the convening of an exceptional meeting of the North Atlantic Council – which brings together the ambassadors of the
28 (equivalent to COPS). This should take place this afternoon.

  • Declaration by High Representative Catherine Ashton on behalf of the EU on the Israeli military operation against the
    Flotilla
  • The EU deeply regrets the loss of life during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the Flotilla sailing to
    Gaza and offers its condolences to the families of the victims. The EU condemns the use of violence that has produced a high number of victims among the members of the flotilla and demands an immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the events and the circumstances surrounding them.
  • The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains a source of serious concern. The EU does not accept the continued policy of closure. It is
    unacceptable and politically counterproductive. We need to urgently achieve a lasting solution to the situation in Gaza.
  • The EU underlines its call for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid,
    commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.
  • The EU calls on Israel to urgently provide Member States with consular access to and information about their citizens.
  • The EU calls upon all parties and relevant actors to prevent a further escalation of tensions and underlines the need to continue
    the proximity talks with a view to the resumption of direct negotiations.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).