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Daily Archives: 06/01/2010

Photostream : Reactions to the Gaza Flotilla Tragedy

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators wave signboards ...
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators wave signboards as an orthodox Jewish man crosses the street, across from the Israeli mission to the United Nations, in New York, May 31, 2010. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and at least nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis and an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council. European nations, as well as the United Nations and Turkey, voiced shock and outrage at the bloody end to the international campaigners’ bid to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators wave signboards ...
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators wave signboards across from the Israeli mission to the United Nations, in New York, May 31, 2010. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and at least nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis and an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council. European nations, as well as the United Nations and Turkey, voiced shock and outrage at the bloody end to the international campaigners’ bid to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip
A man with a sign promoting Islam walks towards ...
A protestor walks with a sign promoting Islam towards pro-Palestinian demonstrators, across the street from the Israeli mission to the United Nations, in New York, May 31, 2010. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and at least nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis and an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council. European nations, as well as the United Nations and Turkey, voiced shock and outrage at the bloody end to the international campaigners’ bid to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip
Israels Foreign Minister Lieberman addresses ...
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman addresses the media during a news conference in Jerusalem May 31, 2010. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and 10 pro-Palestinian activists were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis and plans for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.

Israeli Navy Soldier Describes the Violent Mob Aboard Mavi Marmara

Weapons Found on the Flotilla Ship Mavi Marmara Used by Activists Against IDF Soldiers

Close-Up Footage of Mavi Marmara Passengers Attacking IDF Soldiers, 31 May 2010

Pictures of the weapons found on the Mavi Marmara ship where today, when IDF soldiers attempted to board the ship and redirect it to the Ashdod Port, the activists on board lynched the soldiers in a planned attack. They used knives, metal rods, firebombs and other weapons to attack the soldiers. The violence resulted in the deaths of nine activists and seven IDF soldiers were wounded in the process. All casualties were evacuated from the ship and taken to hospitals in Israel.

Pictures of the weapons found on the Mavi Marmara ship where today, when IDF soldiers attempted to board the ship and redirect it to the Ashdod Port, the activists on board lynched the soldiers in a planned attack. They used knives, metal rods, firebombs and other weapons to attack the soldiers. The violence resulted in the deaths of nine activists and seven IDF soldiers were wounded in the process. All casualties were evacuated from the ship and taken to hospitals in Israel.

Israel faces storm over deadly raid on Gaza aid ...
An image grab taken from a video released by the Israeli navy shows, according to the Israeli military, passengers of Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara, one of the ships in the “Freedom Flotilla”, attacking Israeli soldiers during a pre-dawn assault
U.N. Security Council meets on Gaza flotilla
Israeli naval vessels approach the port of Ashdod May 31, 2010. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss Israel’s storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Israel faces questions as it grills Gaza activists

Israeli soldiers ride aboard a naval vessel in the Mediterranean Sea May 31, 2010

Israel faces storm over deadly raid on Gaza aid ...
Israeli soldiers raid a ship as the navy intercepts a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew home to Israel Tuesday, cancelling a visit to Washington as an international outcry grew over its deadly commando raid on Gaza aid ships.
Commando, Mavi Marmara Ship, Helicopter, Rappel, ...
This image made from video provided by the Israeli Defence Force on Monday, May 31, 2010 shows what the IDF says is a clash between commandos being dropped by helicopter and people aboard the Mavi Marmara ship in the Mediterranean Sea. Israeli commandos rappelled down to an aid flotilla sailing to thwart a Gaza blockade on Monday, clashing with pro-Palestinian activists on the lead ship in a raid that left at least nine passengers dead
Mideast Israel Palestinians, Mavi Marmara, Ship
This image made from video provided by the Israeli Defence Force on Monday, May 31, 2010 shows what the IDF says is the Mavi Marmara ship, part of the aid flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea. Israeli commandos rappelled down to an aid flotilla sailing to thwart a Gaza blockade on Monday, clashing with pro-Palestinian activists on the lead ship in a raid that left at least nine passengers dead.
Egypts Muslim Brotherhood members shout ...
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood members shout anti-Israel slogans in front of Al-Fath Mosque in Cairo May 31, 2010. Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt were protesting against Israel’s interception of a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships. Israeli commandos stormed a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships on Monday and more than 10 of the mostly international activists aboard were killed, provoking a diplomatic crisis and Palestinian charges of a “massacre”.
Palestinian flashes a victory sign in front of ...
A Palestinian flashes a victory sign in front of a Palestinian flag during a demonstration in Rome May 31, 2010. Israel’s storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla set off a diplomatic furore, drawing criticism from friends and foes alike and straining ties with regional ally Turkey, which called off planned joint military exercises.
Demonstrators shout slogans as they hold a Palestinian ...
Demonstrators shout slogans as they hold a Palestinian flag during an anti-Israel protest in front of Chamber of Commerce Israel-Catalunya in Barcelona May 31, 2010. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and 10 pro-Palestinian activists were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis and plans for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.

Pictures of the weapons found on the Mavi Marmara ship where today, when IDF soldiers attempted to board the ship and redirect it to the Ashdod Port, the activists on board lynched the soldiers in a planned attack. They used knives, metal rods, firebombs and other weapons to attack the soldiers. The violence resulted in the deaths of nine activists and seven IDF soldiers were wounded in the process. All casualties were evacuated from the ship and taken to hospitals in Israel.

Pictures of the weapons found on the Mavi Marmara ship where today, when IDF soldiers attempted to board the ship and redirect it to the Ashdod Port, the activists on board lynched the soldiers in a planned attack. They used knives, metal rods, firebombs and other weapons to attack the soldiers. The violence resulted in the deaths of nine activists and seven IDF soldiers were wounded in the process. All casualties were evacuated from the ship and taken to hospitals in Israel.

Egyptian protestors shout anti-Israeli slogans ...
Egyptian protestors shout anti-Israeli slogans during a protest against Israel’s naval commando raid on a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip, outside Al Fateh mosque in Cairo, Egypt, late Monday, May 31, 2010. Israeli commandos rappelled down to an aid flotilla sailing to thwart a Gaza blockade on Monday, clashing with pro-Palestinian activists on the lead ship in a botched raid that left at least nine passengers dead.
Turkish activists wear life jackets after receiving ...
Turkish activists wear life jackets after receiving information of approaching of Israeli military ships, as they hold a news conference on board the Mavi Marmara ship in the Mediterranean Sea, late Sunday, May 30, 2010, shortly before Israeli naval commandos stormed their flotilla of vessels carrying pro-Palestinian activists and aid destined for Gaza
A demonstrator wearing an Israeli flag is confronted ...
A demonstrator wearing an Israeli flag is confronted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathering outside the Israeli Embassy in London, Monday, May 31, 2010. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis.
Egypts Muslim Brotherhood members shouts ...
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood members shouts anti-Israeli slogans in front of Al-Fath Mosque in Cairo May 31, 2010. Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt were protesting against Israel’s interception of a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships. Israeli commandos stormed a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships on Monday and more than 10 of the mostly international activists aboard were killed, provoking a diplomatic crisis and Palestinian charges of a “massacre”
Egypts Muslim Brotherhood members shouts ...
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood members shouts anti-Israeli slogans in front of Al-Fath Mosque in Cairo May 31, 2010. Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt were protesting against Israel’s interception of a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships. Israeli commandos stormed a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships on Monday and more than 10 of the mostly international activists aboard were killed, provoking a diplomatic crisis and Palestinian charges of a “massacre”.
A youth attends a pro-Palestinian demonstration ...
A youth attends a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in London, Monday, May 31, 2010. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis
A Palestinian boy holds an islamic flag during ...
A Palestinian boy holds an islamic flag during a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in Athens on Monday, May 31, 2010. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis.
Members of the U.N. Security Council meet at ...
Members of the U.N. Security Council meet at the United Nations, Monday, May 31, 2010. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis.
Israeli Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations ...
Israeli Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Daniel Carmon speaks at the Security Council, Monday, May 31, 2010, at the United Nations. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis.
Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations ...
Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Monsour walks out of the Security Council meeting when Israeli Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Daniel Carmon begins to speak, Monday, May 31, 2010, at the United Nations. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis
Advisors gather around Turkish Foreign Minister ...
Advisors gather around Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (seated) before an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council at United Nations Headquarters in New York, May 31, 2010. The council held an emergency meeting on Monday, convened at the request of Turkey and Lebanon, to discuss Israel’s storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and at least 10 pro-Palestinian activists were killed, sparking widespread condemnation.
Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations ...
Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Alejandro Wolf addresses the Security Council, Monday, May 31, 2010, at the United Nations. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis.
British Ambassador to the United Nations Grant ...
ritish Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant (L) listens as U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Alejandro Wolff speaks during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council at United Nations Headquarters in New York May 31, 2010. The council held an emergency meeting on Monday, convened at the request of Turkey and Lebanon, to discuss Israel’s storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and at least 10 pro-Palestinian activists were killed, sparking widespread condemnation
British Ambassador to the U.N. Grant speaks during ...
British Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant speaks during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council at United Nations Headquarters in New York May 31, 2010. The council held an emergency meeting on Monday, convened at the request of Turkey and Lebanon, to discuss Israel’s storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and at least 10 pro-Palestinian activists were killed, sparking widespread condemnation.
At least nine dead as Israeli commandos storm ...
A pro-Palestinian activist is evacuated to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. Israeli navy commandos stormed a Gaza-bound aid flotilla early Monday, killing at least nine pro-Palestinian activists, sparking global outrage and plunging the Jewish state into a diplomatic crisis.
A man with the Palestinian flag painted on his ...
A man with the Palestinian flag painted on his face attends a demonstration during an anti-Israel protest in front of Chamber of Commerce Israel-Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, May 31, 2010. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Emine Erdogon
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference at the international airport in Santiago, Monday May 31, 2010. Erdogan suspended his official trip to Chile after Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 passengers in a predawn raid that has set off worldwide condemnation and a diplomatic crisis.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Emine Erdogon
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, top, accompanied by his wife Emine Erdogon, second from left, leaves after a press conference at the international airport in Santiago, Monday May 31, 2010. Erdogan suspended his official trip to Chile after Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 passengers in a predawn raid that has set off worldwide condemnation and a diplomatic crisis.
Hamas acting parliamentary speaker Bahar ...
Hamas’ acting parliamentary speaker Ahmed Bahar (L) and Senior Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh (C) and Mohammed Shama sit in a mourning tent at Gaza seaport to show solidarity with pro-Palestinian activists killed by Israeli marines May 31, 2010. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and 9 pro-Palestinian activists were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis and plans for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.
Hamas Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, center, ...
Hamas Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, center, visits the sea port in Gaza City, Monday, May 31, 2010. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis. Haniyeh condemned the ‘brutal’ Israeli attack and called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene.
Pro-Palestinian activists, carrying a giant Palestinian ...
Pro-Palestinian activists, carrying a giant Palestinian flag, stage a protest on the Champs Elysees, near the Israeli embassy, in Paris, Monday, May 31, 2010. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis
Protesters burn a Star of David during a demonstration ...
Protesters burn a Star of David during a demonstration outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, Monday, May 31, 2010. Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis.
Left-wing Israeli activist holds placard during ...
A left-wing Israeli activist holds a placard during a protest outside the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv against the storming of a Gaza-bound ship May 31, 2010. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and 9 pro-Palestinian activists were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis and plans for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council
Demonstrators shout slogans as they hold Palestinian ...
Demonstrators shout slogans as they hold Palestinian flags during an anti-Israel protest in front of Chamber of Commerce Israel-Catalunya in Barcelona May 31, 2010. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and 10 pro-Palestinian activists were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis and plans for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.
Two women hold a Palestinian banner during an ...
Two women hold a Palestinian banner during an anti-Israel protest in Valencia May 31, 2010. Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza on Monday and 10 pro-Palestinian activists were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis and plans for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.
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Photos : PM Netanyahu Visits Wounded Soldiers at The Hospital

 

 

(YOUTUBE) Statement by PM Netanyahu Regarding Gaza Flotilla Clash

Gaza flotilla: Statement by PM Netanyahu

 

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TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – JUNE 1: In this handout photo provided by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits wounded soldiers at the Tel Hashomer hospital on June 1, 2010 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

 

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TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – JUNE 1: In this handout photo provided by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits wounded soldiers at the Tel Hashomer hospital on June 1, 2010 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Gaza flotilla: Statement by PM Netanyahu

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June 1, 2010

 

 

(PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE)   This regrettable incident was the result of an intentional provocation of forces which support Iran and its terrorist enclave, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. Last night a regrettable incident occurred, during which people were killed and others were injured. IDF soldiers who were compelled to defend their lives were also injured. This incident was the result of an intentional provocation of forces which support Iran and its terrorist enclave, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. This enclave, Hamas, has fired thousands of missiles at the State of Israel, and it is amassing thousands more.

This is a clear case of self-defense. Israel cannot allow the free flow of weapons, of and rockets and missiles to the terrorist base of Hamas in Gaza. It’s a terrorist base supported by Iran; it’s already fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities; it seeks to smuggle in thousands of more, and this is why Israel must inspect the goods that come into Gaza. It’s also a clear cut of self-defense because as our soldiers were inspecting these ships, they were attacked – they were almost lynched. They were attacked with clubs, with knives, perhaps with live gunfire, and they had to defend themselves – they were going to be killed. Israel would not allow its soldiers to be lynched and neither would any other self-respecting country.

Our policy is simple. We say: any goods, any humanitarian aid to Gaza, can enter. What we want to prevent is their ability to bring in war materiel – missiles, rockets, the means for constructing casing for missiles and rockets. This has been our policy and yesterday we told the flotilla – which was not a simple, innocent flotilla – to bring their goods into Ashdod. We told them that we would examine their cargo and allow those goods that could not be used as weapons or shielding materials for Hamas into Gaza.

Five of the six ships accepted these terms without violence. Apparently, the sixth ship, the largest, which had on board hundreds of people, had a premeditated plan to harm IDF soldiers. When the first soldiers dropped down onto the deck of the ship, they were attacked by a violent mob and were compelled to defend their lives. That is when the unfortunate events took place.

We have a simple policy, which will continue. That policy is: we have no argument or fight with the population of Gaza. We are interested in allowing them to continue their regular routines. We want to prevent any humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but we are fighting the Hamas organization, which threatens the citizens of Israel and fires missiles at Israeli cities. It is our duty to defend the citizens of Israel, protect Israel’s cities and ensure the security of the State of Israel – and we will continue to do so.

Hatoyama to stay as PM

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TOKYO, June 1 (UPI) — Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, despite calls for his resignation, said Tuesday he’ll stay on to help his party in the upcoming upper house elections.

Hatoyama, who led his Democratic Party of Japan to power last August, is now facing growing calls from his own party to resign as approval ratings for his Cabinet has sunk below 20 percent. The DPJ, which leads the coalition government, has a sizable majority in the lower house of parliament but must do well in next month’s upper house elections to win approval of bills as the country comes out of its worst post-World War II recession.

“By holding discussions with (DPJ) Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa and cooperating with him, I will stand up against this national crisis,” Kyodo News quoted Hatoyama as telling reporters.

Adding to Hatoyama’s woes, his coalition’s partner, the Social Democratic Party, plans to leave after the prime minister cut SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima from his Cabinet after she refused to support an accord on the relocation of the U.S. Marine Base in Okinawa, a thorny issue in U.S.-Japan relations.

The Hatoyama government, after months of discussions, decided to relocate the U.S. Marines’ Futenma Air Station to a less-crowded site within Okinawa rather than outside the prefecture as Hatoyama had pledged in his election campaign.

A Kyodo News telephone poll of voters during the weekend showed the Hatoyama Cabinet’s public support ratings fell to 19.1 percent and 51.2 percent want Hatoyama’s resignation for failing to resolve the base issue as he had promised.

Pragmatism prevails at EU-Russia summit

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) talks to EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso prior to EU-Russia talks in the town of Rostov-on-Don on June 1, 2010.

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June 1,  2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is hosting EU leaders today (1 June) for a summit aimed at putting aside past differences and focusing on reviving trade and boosting troubled economies.

Background

EU-Russia relations went through a difficult period after Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August 2008. The conflict saw Russian troops repel an assault on the breakaway pro-Russian region of South Ossetia, which broke free from Tbilisi’s rule in the early 1990s.

Russia later recognised South Ossetia and Georgia’s second breakaway region of Abkhazia as independent states. Russia has thousands of troops stationed in both regions.

On the energy side, Russian gas giant Gazprom is drawing up long-term plans to strengthen its grip on Europe with pipeline projects backed by the Kremlin (see EurActiv LinksDossier on Pipeline politics).

Last year, Moscow lashed out at a European Commission initiative to modernise Ukraine’s gas pipeline system (EurActiv 24/03/09). In Moscow’s eyes, the EU executive should have better coordinated this plan with Russia, which is Europe’s main gas supplier.

Russia also dislikes the EU’s ‘Eastern Partnership’ initiative (EurActiv 08/05/09), a plan to foster closer political and economic ties with six former Soviet republics, suspecting that it is designed to substitute the Moscow-centred Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with a Brussels-centred alternative.

However, Russia remains a key EU partner. It is its third largest trading partner and an important exporter of oil and gas. Current cooperation is based on four policy areas: economic and environmental issues; freedom, security and justice; external security; and research and education.

A new EU-Russia basic treaty is under negotiation.

The Kremlin leader has put a warmer face on ties with the West in recent months, and the summit in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don was expected to demonstrate new-found pragmatism in relations between Moscow and the European Union.

Previous summits under former President Vladimir Putin were often marred by rows over thorny issues such as human rights.

“For once, there is no significant dispute outstanding, either political or economic, between Russia and any of the EU member countries,” said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at investment bank Uralsib.

During the summit, EU leaders hope to get Kremlin assurances on the ailing euro, which accounts for nearly half of Russia’s currency reserves. Moscow, for its part, needs more technology and investment as part of Medvedev’s modernisation drive.

Two decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russian officials said they would also press for visa-free travel to Europe for Russian citizens.

Human rights could still overshadow the meeting

On the eve of the summit, as Medvedev sat down for dinner with EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, police used force to disperse anti-Kremlin rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Washington, not part of the summit, criticised the crackdown. “The United States regrets the detention of peaceful protesters in Moscow and St Petersburg,” White House spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.

“The reports of beatings by people associated with law enforcement, the rough handling of those detained and deplorable conditions of detention do not correspond to universal norms assuring citizens’ freedoms of expression and assembly,” he said.

In a letter published on Monday in The Moscow Times newspaper, prominent figures including former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu questioned Kremlin pledges to improve the human rights situation.

“We ask Medvedev and urge the Russian government to protect people in danger and to ensure quick and effective investigations into the murders of human rights activists, journalists and independent-minded jurists,” said the letter.

Warmer ties

Yet officials from both sides said they expected a good-humoured meeting focused on brass-tacks issues, reflecting warmer relations between Moscow and Poland, and a leaked Russian Foreign Ministry memo calling for a more pragmatic policy.

After rising for nearly a decade, EU exports to Russia fell sharply during the financial crisis, dropping to 66 billion euros last year from 105 billion euros in 2008.

Foreign direct investment in Russia from the EU fell from 25 billion euros in 2008 into negative territory last year, EU figures show.

Analysts said EU leaders were likely to ask for assurances that Russia would avoid actions that could undermine confidence in the euro. Russia’s Central Bank chairman said on Thursday that, “for now,” he did not see the need to sell any of the 41% of some $450 billion of currency reserves held in euros.

On the visa front, Moscow has been pressing for years for an end to visa requirements for Russians traveling to Europe.

The Kremlin has watched in frustration as, despite the post-Soviet economic recovery, Brussels scrapped visas for poorer states such as Bosnia and Albania, but not for Russia.

EU officials fear scrapping visas could spark a backlash among voters in Western Europe, where high levels of migration from the ex-Communist east have become increasingly sensitive.

Medvedev, who has made modernisation and innovation watchwords of his presidency, also seeks EU help in weaning the Russian economy off its dependence on energy exports, which contributed to a 7.9% collapse in Russian GDP last year.

Gaza flotilla attack: world unites in condemnation of Israel's actions

Brussels protest at Israeli flotilla attack

June 1, 2010

Israel‘s calculated gamble in sending commandos to raid the Mediterranean flotilla looked likely last night to exact a high price, leaving it increasingly isolated internationally and diplomatically and losing the vital public relations war in the Middle East.

The first and biggest casualty of what appeared to many as a rash act of night time derring-do was Israel’s relationship with what used to be its key strategic, regional and Muslim ally, Turkey.

Anger erupted on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, with Israeli flags burned and the Netanyahu government advising Israelis to stay away from Turkey. Thousands took to the streets and marched on the Israeli consulate.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, described the Israeli raid as “an act of inhumane state terrorism”, while the foreign ministry spoke of “an act of piracy” and of “irreparable damage” to relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv.

Three of the six ships flew the Turkish flag, the convoy was organised by a Turkish charity, and several hundred of those on board the ships were Turks. “We had a very good relationship with Israel, but we have had all kind of difficulties in the past,” said a senior diplomat in Ankara, Selim Yenel. “This tops them all.”

Protesters scaled the high fences protecting the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, only to be repelled by security forces.

“I cried all night. What Israel did was murder and terrorism,” said Mehmet Tas, a computer software student. “Turkey and Europe should unite and attack Israel.”

The fury on the streets was mirrored by high-level rage. Ankara recalled its ambassador from Israel. Erdogan rushed home from a trip to Latin America to deal with the fallout. Observers predicted a possible breach in diplomatic relations.

“Israel has targeted innocent civilians,” said the foreign ministry in Ankara. “It has shown yet again that it does not care about human lives or peace initiatives.”

Noting that the dawn raid occurred in international waters, Ankara hinted at demanding legal redress.

The Turks convened an emergency meeting of generals and security ministers and called off military exercises with Israel, as did Greece.

The United Nations security council was expected to meet last night in New York over the incident.

“I heard the ships were in international water. That is very bad,” said Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.

The Obama administration, while regretting the death toll, reserved judgment on apportioning blame.

“The United States is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy,” said White House spokesman William Burton.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, cancelled plans to visit Obama at the White House today.

Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity, Israeli ambassadors were summoned in Stockholm, Madrid, and Athens, while Spain, holding the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, called a session of the EU’s political and security committee.

Foreign governments deplored the loss of life and voiced outrage at the Israeli conduct. But amid a propaganda war between the Israeli government press machine and pro-Palestinian lobbies over who started the fight and whether any of the activists on board were armed, they were also wary of going further than verbal condemnation.

The common response in Europe was to condemn what was seen as Israel’s disproportionate use of force. Even Germany, generally reluctant to criticize Israel because of the Holocaust, voiced horror at what Palestinian leaders dubbed a massacre.

“The German government is shocked by events in the international waters by Gaza,” said a German government spokesman, adding that Israeli actions should observe the fundamental principle of proportionality. “A first glance suggests this basic principle was not adhered to.”

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign and security policy chief, said: “I have spoken to Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to express our deepest concern about the tragedy that has happened. I said there should be an immediate inquiry by Israel into the circumstances.”

Her demand for an Israeli inquiry was echoed by European governments, but at odds with several other calls for an independent international investigation.

Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, told Liberman that any investigation should be “comprehensive, transparent, and neutral”.

While Israel generally prevents foreign politicians entering the Gaza Strip, Ashton was allowed in during her first trip to the Middle East in March. She called yesterday for a partial lifting of the blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt.

“I have also taken the opportunity to point out the importance of opening the crossings for humanitarian aid to go through, to ensure that ordinary people have a better existence than that which I saw.”

William Hague, the foreign secretary, said that the three-year Israeli siege of Gaza should be relaxed. “I call on the government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians.”

The Russian government meanwhile expressed its deep anxiety over the incident. It described the assault by Israeli commandos as a gross violation of international law and called for a thorough investigation.

“Use of weapons against civilians and detaining ships in the open sea without any legal reason constitute obvious and gross violations of generally accepted legal standards,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement. It called for the “earliest possible lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza”.

Tony Blair, envoy in the Middle East for the UN, US, EU, and Russia quartet, said: “We need a different and better way of helping the people of Gaza and avoiding the hardship and tragedy that is inherent in the present situation.”

All the evidence suggests that Israel is calculating that it can brazen out the chorus of criticism and limit the substantive damage to its relations with Turkey.

Sarah Ferguson tells Winfrey she had been drinking

Sarah Ferguson
May 31, 2010

CHICAGO – Sarah Ferguson says she had been drinking and was “not in my right place” when she was caught on video offering access to her former husband, Prince Andrew, for $724,000.

The Duchess of York made the comments to talk show host Oprah Winfrey in an interview to air Tuesday. The interview was taped Friday in Los Angeles, and excerpts were released Monday by Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

Ferguson tells Winfrey that she’d seen snippets of the video in airports but had not “faced the devil in the face” by watching it in its entirety. But she says she could tell she’d been drinking and was “in the gutter at that moment.”

Ferguson has apologized for her lapse of judgment and has said she had financial problems.

Aide: Abbas says no need to quit peace talks

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AP

June 1, 2010

RAMALLAH, West Bank – An adviser to Mahmoud Abbas says the Palestinian president sees no need to quit indirect Mideast peace talks over Israel’s interception of a Gaza-bound ship.

The killing of nine pro-Palestinian activists in Monday’s Israeli raid has raised concern that U.S.-led efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could be disrupted.

Abbas met late Monday with senior PLO officials to assess the situation. Abbas adviser Mohammed Ishtayeh says Abbas told the group there is no need to quit the negotiations since the Palestinians are talking to the U.S. and not to Israel.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli commandos rappelled down to an aid flotilla sailing to thwart a Gaza blockade on Monday, clashing with pro-Palestinian activists on the lead ship in a botched raid that left at least nine passengers dead.

Bloodied passengers sprawled on the deck and troops dived into the sea to save themselves during several hours of hand-to-hand fighting that injured dozens of activists and six soldiers. Hundreds of activists — many of whom were apparently Turkish — were towed from the international waters to Israeli detention centers and hospitals.

International condemnation was swift and harsh as Israel scrambled to explain how what was meant to be a simple takeover of a civilian vessel went so badly awry.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly canceled a planned meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington to rush home. The global reaction appeared likely to increase pressure to end the embargo that has plunged Gaza’s 1.5 million residents deeper into poverty.

Most of the information about what happened on the single ship where violence broke out came from Israel, which cut off all communication to and from the activists and provided testimony and video evidence that its soldiers came under attack by activists armed with metal rods, knives, slingshots and two pistols snatched from the troops.

Passengers reached at an Israeli hospital and journalists aboard the ship accused the soldiers of using excessive force. One passenger, who identified himself as American, spoke briefly with reporters.

“I’m not violent. What I can tell you is that there are bruises all over my body. They won’t let me show them to you,” he said before he was pushed away by a security escort.

A soldier identified only as a sergeant told reporters at a military briefing that the activists on board “were armed with knives, scissors, pepper spray and guns.” He said he was armed only with a paintball rifle. “It was a civilian paintball gun that any 12-year-old can play with,” he said. “I saw my friends on the deck spitting blood.”

The high-seas confrontation was a nightmare scenario for Israel, which insisted its soldiers were simply unprepared for what awaited them on the Mavi Marmara, the ship carrying 600 of the 700 activists headed for Gaza. Instead of carrying their regular automatic rifles, the Israelis said they went in with non-lethal paintball guns and pistols they never expected to use.

Israel intercepted the six ships carrying some 10,000 tons of aid for the isolated seaside territory, which has been blockaded by Israel for three years, with Egypt’s cooperation. The Israeli government had urged the flotilla not to try to breach the blockade before the ships set sail from waters off Cyprus on Sunday and offered to take some aid in for them.

Israel has allowed ships through five times, but has blocked them from entering Gaza waters since a three-week military offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers in January 2009.

Key regional ally Turkey withdrew its ambassador on Monday, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency session, the British foreign secretary demanded an end to the blockade of Gaza, and Jordan called Israel’s raid a “heinous crime.”

An al-Jazeera journalist delivering a report before Israel cut communications said Israel fired at the vessel before boarding it. In one web posting, a Turkish television reporter on the boat cried out, “These savages are killing people here, please help” — a broadcast that ended with a voice shouting in Hebrew, “Everybody shut up!”

Al-Jazeera said that eight staff members were detained while covering the story, and asked for the Israeli government to release them immediately.

The military said naval commandos descending from a helicopter onto the deck of a Turkish-flagged ship were assaulted by armed activists. Military footage showed activists swarming around the commandos as they rappelled from a helicopter one by one, hitting them with sticks until they fell to the deck, throwing one off the ship and hurling what the military said was a firebomb.

Speaking alongside the Canadian prime minister, Netanyahu expressed “regret” for the loss of life but said the soldiers “had to defend themselves, defend their lives, or they would have been killed.”

Activists said Israeli naval commandos stormed the ships after ordering them to stop in international waters, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) from Gaza’s coast.

A spokeswoman for the Free Gaza movement, which organized the flotilla, said the group’s goal — beyond just bringing supplies to the impoverished territory — was to shatter the blockade.

“What we’re trying to do is open a sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world,” Greta Berlin said in Cyprus. “We’re not trying to be a humanitarian mission. We’re trying to say to the world, ‘You have no right to imprison a million and a half Palestinians.'”

Israel’s international image had already taken a beating from allegations that it committed war crimes during its 2008-2009 winter war in Gaza, and from widespread global opposition to the blockade. Hamas was also accused of rights violations in that conflict.

Relations with Turkey, a key supporter of the aid flotilla but also until recently Israel’s staunchest ally in the Muslim world, were badly damaged by Monday’s events, possibly irreparably. Ankara announced it would recall its ambassador and call off all military exercises with Israel. Around 10,000 Turks marched in protest.

At the U.N., Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the raid “murder conducted by a state” and demanded an immediate Israeli apology, international legal action and an end to the blockade.

The bloody showdown came at a sensitive time for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Netanyahu had hoped to receive a high-profile expression of support from Obama after months of strained relations over Israeli settlement construction.

Obama voiced “deep regret,” over the raids, and the White House said he and Netanyahu agreed by phone to reschedule White House talks. The U.S. recently began mediating indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians following a 17-month breakdown in contacts.

Israel’s immediate concern on Monday was what to do about the boats and their passengers. It ferried the wounded to hospitals by helicopter and towed the six ships to port, giving each of the activists a choice of deportation or detention.

By late Monday, about 150 of the activists — most from Turkey — had been taken off the boats, Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said, adding the process would continue into Tuesday. She said about 30 had agreed to be deported, and the rest would be detained.

A commando who spoke to reporters on a naval vessel off the coast, identified only as “A,” said he and his comrades were taken off guard by a group of Arabic-speaking men when they rappelled onto the deck. He said some of the soldiers were stripped of their helmets and their pistols and some had jumped overboard to escape the violence.

A high-ranking naval official displayed a box confiscated from the boat containing switchblades, slingshots, metal balls and metal bats.

Turkey’s NTV network showed activists beating one commando with sticks as he landed on deck. Dr. Arnon Afek, deputy director of Chaim Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv, said two commandos were brought in with gunshot wounds. Another had serious head wounds, Afek added.

At Barzilai hospital in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, a few activists trickled in under military escort, claiming they had been beaten during the assault.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli “massacre” and declared three days of mourning across the West Bank.

Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the rival Hamas government in Gaza, condemned the “brutal” Israeli attack and called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene.

Ban condemned the violence.

“I am shocked by reports of killings,” he said. “It is vital that there is a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place.”

After nightfall, Hamas-linked militants fired a rocket that exploded in Israel, the militants and the Israeli military said. Nobody was hurt. The militants said the rocket attack was in response to Israel’s raid on the flotilla.

UK PM Cameron in phone call with Netanyahu urges Israel to 'respond constructively' to criticism

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May 31, 2010
(BIBIREPORTBLOGSPOT.COM / AFP).  Prime Minister David Cameron urged his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to “respond constructively to legitimate criticism” of its storming of an aid ship bound for Gaza.
Cameron told Netanyahu in a telephone conversation that Britain “deplored the heavy loss of life” after at least nine people died when Israeli commandos raided the ship.
“He reiterated the UK’s strong commitment to Israel’s security, but urged Israel to respond constructively to legitimate criticism of its actions, and to do everything possible to avoid a repeat of this unacceptable situation,” a spokesman for Cameron said.
“The PM also stressed the importance of urgently lifting the blockade of Gaza, and allowing full access for humanitarian aid.”