Turkish commission will hear İHH's side, inspect ships
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News | 8/12/2010 12:00:00 AM | FULYA ÖZERKAN
The new Turkish commission established to look into the Israeli raid on Gaza-bound aid ships will listen to all responsible parties including the organizers of the flotilla. The commission will submit a report to the UN’s inquiry panel. Diplomats say the report needs to be ready by the end of the month, so that it can be submitted to the UN before its mid-September report is released
A Turkish commission set up to look into the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will listen to all parties responsible, including the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, which organized the aid ships to break the Gaza blockade.
“The commission will meet with everyone responsible including those who were aboard the ship from the Turkish side,” a senior Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday. There were claims that İHH members aboard the Mavi Marmara ship attacked by Israeli commandos May 31 lacked passports and a few of them were carrying only business cards.
Turkish officials, however, denied any contact with Israel, saying that “the goal of the commission is to carry out an investigation in Turkey.” The members of the commission, who held their first meeting Wednesday, will submit a report to the international inquiry set up by the United Nations earlier this month to look into the incident. Diplomats said the report needs to be ready by the end of this month, so that it can be sent to the U.N. panel before the latter’s initial progress report is released in mid-September.
The members of the commission will also examine the three ships towed into the port at İskenderun on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast after the Israeli government allowed Turkey to take them back, diplomatic sources said. The vessels were part of a six-ship flotilla that tried to make a run on Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian aid. Turkish diplomats said the return of the ships has made an inspection easier.
Turkey established a committee in the wake of the May 31 incident made up of officials from the Justice and Foreign ministries and the Maritime Undersecretariat. Officials said, however, the current commission, which will work under the Prime Ministry, is a brand new body that will also provide information to the U.N. panel, which has the full confidence of Turkey, and is broader than the former committee as it also includes officials from the Interior and Transportation ministries.
Israel has set up two internal commissions into the raid, one military and the other a civilian committee that includes two international representatives. Asked if the Turkish commission will also include civilian figures for impartiality, the unnamed Turkish diplomat said: “We’ll speak with civilians, but whatever we do we cannot appear impartial. However much we don’t see the Israeli commission as impartial, they too will not see ours as impartial.”
He added: “Only the state and its institutions have the capacity of conducting this inquiry. To what extent can we trust a civil society organization to do this?”
Ambassador Mithat Rende will, in a way, head the Turkish commission as he will be the point of contact to help liaison between the members of the internal commission and the U.N. panel.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry declined to announce the other members of the commission apart from Rende.
The U.N. panel is chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, co-chaired by former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and includes Israeli representative Joseph Ciechanover and Turkish representative Özdem Sanberk.