Ban Ki-moon: Gaza Blockade 'Must be Lifted'

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Voice of America

Ban Ki-moon: Gaza Blockade 'Must be Lifted'

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Demonstrators hold a sign against the blockade of the Gaza Strip near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, 31 May 2010. (Photo: AFP)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he considering all the options
for an investigation into an Israeli raid aboard a ship carrying
humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip that ended in the deaths of nine
pro-Palestinian activists.

The U.N. chief stepped off a plane
from Africa Wednesday and immediately went into separate meetings with
ambassadors from Israel, Turkey, the Arab States and the permanent five
Security Council member countries.

Afterwards, he told reporters
he is ready to take "the necessary action" to start a full
investigation into the events on the Turkish flagged ship the Mavi
Marmara. But he said he would proceed in a deliberate manner,
discussing it with all the concerned parties, before making a decision
on how to go forward.

"It [the investigation] should be one
which can gain credibility and support from the parties concerned,"
said Ban Ki-moon. "This is a very sensitive and even difficult,
therefore, I am still in the process of these consultations. I will try
to make it as impartial, as credible, as transparent as possible."

Mr. Ban added that there are "various options" for the investigation, but would not go into details.

He
urged the Israeli authorities to quickly provide a full and detailed
accounting of the events surrounding the incident, including
information on those detained, wounded and killed.

He also
noted the decision by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to send an
international fact finding mission to the region to look into possible
violations of international law.

Secretary-General Ban said
the violence aboard the Turkish ship could have been avoided if Israel
had heeded earlier calls to lift its three-year long blockade which has
prevented essential goods from reaching Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

"This
tragedy only highlights the serious underlying problem," he said. "The
long-running closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is counter-productive,
unsustainable and wrong.  It punishes innocent civilians.  It must be
lifted by the Israeli authorities immediately."

Turkey and Arab
states are calling for an independent, international probe into the
raid by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara, which was in
international waters when it was intercepted. Israel says its soldiers
were acting in self-defense because passengers attacked them when the
commandos repelled onto the ship from helicopters.

On Tuesday,
the U.N. Security Council called for a "prompt, impartial, credible and
transparent investigation" into the incident. Several council members
said that meant an independent investigation with international
elements, while the United States said Israel is capable of
investigating itself.  

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