Department says it is not speaking for activists


DIPLOMACY:THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs has stated that it is not its role to negotiate on behalf of the activists on board an Irish-owned aid ship headed for Gaza, and it stressed that any ongoing contacts it may have with the Israeli authorities are to ensure that the “clearly stated humanitarian intentions” of those on the vessel are respected.

The statement follows reports yesterday in the Israeli media that suggested that Irish and Israeli officials were negotiating with a view to bringing the MV Rachel Corrie to discharge its cargo in the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The persons on the Rachel Corrie represent independent NGOs. The Department respects this and it is not our role to negotiate on their behalf,” the statement said. “The Government continues to call for safe passage for the Rachel Corrie to Gaza. Any ongoing contacts we may have with the Israeli authorities are to ensure that the clearly stated humanitarian intentions of those onboard are respected.

“The Government’s top priority is the safety and welfare of the Irish citizens concerned and all those aboard the vessel; to avoid any further bloodshed or violence; and to see the safe delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.” Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin held a meeting with Israel’s ambassador to Ireland Zion Evrony yesterday. Among the issues they discussed was the mistreatment of some Irish citizens caught up in the Israeli commando raid.

Ireland’s ambassador to Israel Breifne O’Reilly has been in daily contact with Israeli officials regarding the Rachel Corrie vessel, the treatment of Irish citizens seized from the flotilla, and the status of Ken O’Keeffe, an Irish-American activist who remains in Israel “because of problems with his travel documentation”. Mr O’Keeffe is expected to be issued with a new passport today.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that any recommendation arising from the consideration of two reports – one from the Garda and the other from the department’s passport unit – concerning the use of fake Irish passports by the alleged assassins of a Hamas official, is an internal decision by the Department.

Earlier this week The Irish Timesrevealed that senior officials had recommended the expulsion of an Israeli embassy security officer after concluding that Israel forged Irish passports used by suspects in the murder. There is no suggestion the two currently serving security officers were involved.

Mr Martin is expected to propose that the recommendation be acted upon when he brings the matter to Cabinet within a fortnight.