Israel 'determined' to halt Gaza flotilla
New York - Israel is "determined" to stop an activist flotilla that will try to reach the besieged Gaza Strip next week, the country's UN envoy said Thursday.
Setting off a new dispute with his Palestinian counterpart, ambassador Ron Prosor said: "Israel is determined to stop this flotilla. Israel has the right to self defence." He called the protest a "provocation".
"The flotilla has nothing constructive - there is nothing humanitarian or anything that has to do with Palestinian welfare in the organizing of this flotilla," he told reporters as the UN Security Council held talks on the Middle East including the flotilla.
Prosor called the organisers "extremists".
About 10 boats are to take part in the flotilla which is set to leave 13 months after Israeli commandos halted a previous aid armada heading for Gaza, killing nine people, mainly Turkish nationals.
A group of pro-Palestinian activists, led by several Turkish groups, have said they plan to sail to Gaza, mainly from Greek ports, in a repeat of the mission violently halted on May 31 last year.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a number of governments have warned the flotilla not to start.
The US government has warned its nationals against taking part in the protest.
Israel has strongly urged Turkey to block the flotilla from leaving. The United Nations has said that aid shipments should be sent through formal UN structures.
The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyadh Mansour, spoke up for the flotilla protest however. "If this blockade of Gaza was lifted there might not be the need for many of the things which are happening and might happen," he told reporters.
Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2006 after militants snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. A ban on civilian goods and foodstuffs was eased last year but many restrictions remain in place.
Mansour rejected the Israeli envoy's condemnation of Palestinian moves to seek international recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations in September.
Prosor said the "unilateral" action risked putting back peace efforts.
"The biggest illegal action we have seen for a long time is the illegal settlement campaign by Israel against our people," Mansour said.
Palestinians were ready to negotiate on final status issues with Israel, he said.
"Our independence is not one of these six final status issues."