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Statement by Minister Martin on the Rachel Corrie

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Micheál Martin, T.D. has issued the following statement:

“The Government has made clear that it believes that the Rachel Corrie should be allowed to proceed to Gaza and to unload its humanitarian cargo. Those on board the Rachel Corrie have indicated that they are ready to accept inspection of their cargo at sea, prior to docking in Gaza. However, the Israeli government has stated that it is not willing to allow any breach of their naval blockade of Gaza.

As the Rachel Corrie continues to approach Gaza, the Government’s primary concern is the safety of Irish citizens and others on board. We are also conscious of the urgent need to address the humanitarian concerns of the people of Gaza, the desirability of reducing international tensions following the violent storming of humanitarian supply vessels by Israeli commandos earlier this week, and the obligation of States to respect the right to peaceful protest.

Acting on these considerations, I sought through various contacts to secure an agreement which would ensure the safety of those on board the Rachel Corrie, allow them to make their protest, and provide for the delivery to Gaza of the Rachel Corrie’s full cargo.

On Friday morning, an understanding was reached with the Israeli government whereby the Rachel Corrie would have approached the Israeli exclusion zone before accepting diversion to the Israeli port of Ashdod. At Ashdod, the cargo would have been unloaded and inspected under the supervision of UN and officials from the Irish Aid Division of my Department. The entire cargo, including what is understood to be 550 tonnes of cement, would then have been transported to Gaza. Two persons from the Rachel Corrie would have been permitted to accompany the cargo to the Israeli border crossing into Gaza at Erez.

In my view, such an arrangement would have offered a useful precedent for future humanitarian shipments, pending the complete lifting of the blockade.

This proposal was put to those on board the Rachel Corrie who, on Friday afternoon, after careful consideration and having thanked the Government for its efforts, declined to accept it. I fully respect their right to do so and to continue their protest action by seeking to sail to Gaza.

If, as is their stated intention, the Israeli government intercepts the Rachel Corrie, the Government demands that it demonstrate every restraint. Those on board the Rachel Corrie have made clear their peaceful intentions and have stated that they will offer no resistance to Israeli forces. Based on these assurances, there can be no justification for the use of force against any person on board the Rachel Corrie.

The Government also urges the Israeli Government to ensure the transfer to Gaza of the entire cargo of the Rachel Corrie, including cement which is urgently needed for the reconstruction of Gaza. The Government continues to call on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza. Pending that, Israel should immediately facilitate the import into Gaza of all goods, other than weapons.”