As you know, I am just back from Brazil, Malawi and Uganda. I will return to Africa next week and again later this month.
Let me turn right away to the tragic deaths and injuries that took place during the Israeli operation on Monday to stop ships carrying supplies for Gaza.
You have seen my statements. I have been closely following developments.
As you know, the Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement outlining a course to address the situation.
Today, the Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution deciding to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission.
In view of these decisions, I am consulting about the way forward with the concerned parties, including the Security Council.
I have spoken to many world leaders, and this afternoon I met with Arab, Turkish, and Israeli Permanent Representatives, as well as with key members of the Security Council.
The Israeli authorities must provide, as soon as possible, a full and detailed accounting of the events surrounding the incident, including information on the detained, wounded and killed.
I am relieved to learn that most of the detainees and injured are returning home today.
Everything must be done to prevent another incident of this kind. All concerned should act with a sense of care and responsibility, and in accordance with international law.
At this sensitive time, it is essential to avoid provocations. The United Nations has raised its concerns about this with international partners and the Israeli authorities.
This tragedy only highlights the serious underlying problem. The long-running closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is counter-productive, unsustainable and wrong. It punishes innocent civilians. It must be lifted by the Israeli authorities immediately.
In recent months, I have consistently urged the Government of Israel, at the highest levels, including during my visit in March, to lift this blockade and allow the United Nations and other humanitarian relief supplies into Gaza. If this had been done, this tragedy would have been avoided.
The Quartet Envoys have been in close contact. In a conversation yesterday, they emphasized the need to fundamentally improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
In the meantime, subject to the consent of donors and without any strings attached, we will do our part so that aid from the convoy reaches its destination, as called for by the Security Council. We encourage all parties to be flexible to enable this to happen.
Speaking more broadly, we must advance the proximity talks facilitated by the United States. Despite the latest developments, it is vital for the talks to continue.
This week's events underscore the urgency of real progress in the Middle East peace process. I commend President Abbas's courageous decision to continue, and Arab partners for their flexibility.
As Secretary-General, I stand ready to take any necessary action, and will continue my personal engagement to contribute to a resolution of the conflict.
Now I will be happy to take your questions.
Q: Can you please elaborate on what you mean by how you are going to implement this call by the Security Council to make an independent investigation? And my second question, sir, there is already a second convoy of ships heading to Gaza to break the siege, and their attempt. Are you in contact with Israeli authorities to make sure they are not going to kill any more peace activists? Thank you, sir.
SG: The Security Council called for a prompt, credible, transparent and impartial investigation to this incident. The Human Rights Council has also adopted a resolution this morning to dispatch, as I said, an independent fact finding mission.
Therefore, as I said, I'm in the process of discussing all the various options, as Secretary-General, to take action at this time. It is very important, first of all, that we have a full investigation of this incident so that this kind of tragic incident will not happen again, and you may have to wait some time before I make any decision.
About the second question, I am aware that one or two ships are approaching. As I said in my earlier statement, all the parties should act responsibly, with caution, to avoid any such kind of incident, which was tragic two days ago. I would urge again to take any action with caution and responsibility and not to have this tragic accident again.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you said it will take some time. What do you mean by “some time”?
SG: First of all, you have to see exactly what has [transpired] during the debate in the Security Council in reaching the Presidential Statement. There are various options, but I need to have a common denominator, common understanding among the parties concerned. During [my] whole day consultations with various groups of delegations, the views are different, diverse, therefore I need to refine some elements which can get some support from all the parties concerned, including the Israeli Government.
Q: You said you were looking at different options. How serious an option are you considering to have some kind of international element in this investigation?
SG: First of all, this investigation should be credible, impartial and a transparent one. Therefore I am looking at various options again. I'm not in a position to tell you anything definitive.
Q: Sir, Turkey lost some of its citizens, and the people on board were Turkish, the majority of them were Turkish. They are still be held by the country, Israel. How urgently should they be released to go back to Turkey. Can you do something?
SG: I was told by an Israeli parliamentary representative that, first of all, the Attorney General of the Israeli Government has decided not to charge those people. They will all be allowed to go back to their homes, and some have already been deported to Jordan and other countries, and there are some people still remaining who are injured, who are being taken care of, who need to get some investigations [inaudible]. I was told the number is very few. They have taken all the humanitarian measures to bring them back to their homes.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you say you are considering various options in consulting and so forth. Is one of the bottom lines that you feel it is up to you to make a decision, to provide leadership, to define the direction in which this investigation goes?
SG: Again, I repeat I need some more consultations. I know this should be done promptly but, at the same time, it should [?] can gain credibility and support from the parties concerned. This is very sensitive, and even difficult, therefore I am still in the process of consultations. I'll try to make it as impartial, as credible, as transparent as possible.
Q: Thank you Secretary-General, can you tell us if you have requested an assessment from the Secretariat's own lawyers as to whether Israel's naval blockade and the commando raid, were legal under the relevant international laws? And if you have asked this advice, what was it?
SG: First of all, internally, I ask all the time my legal counsel to provide me with professional legal advice on all the matters, including this case. This is an internal one.
At the same time, you should know that the Human Rights Council has decided to dispatch an international fact-finding mission. Therefore, for the legality issue, I think you should wait for that decision [from] the fact finding mission. At this time what I would like to emphasize, is that the more important thing would be how we can help the Palestinians living in Gaza, how we can fundamentally change their situation in Gaza, and more broadly speaking, we need to promote the proximity talks so that we can have a Middle East Peace Process as soon as possible.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, so what is your understanding of the paragraph of the Security Council statement, and do you believe that the fact-finding mission will have a mandate to allow it to investigate the whole matter, or only the violations for international law?
SG: You are talking about the Security Council Statement. Once the investigation is done, that should deal with all the aspects of the incident, including the violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws. First of all, exact fact-finding will be important, and on the basis of fact-finding, they should be able to judge whether it is a violation of human rights and humanitarian laws. But that will have to be seen later when this commission is constituted.
Q: Can you tell us what kind of guidance you did receive this afternoon from the P-5 (Permanent – Five), and is it your view, based on what you heard, that it is within your authority at this point to order an investigation, or would you need another Security Council resolution?
SG: First of all, I don't think that we need to have any Security Council statement or resolution on this issue. The purpose of my meeting with the P-5 ambassadors was to exchange views, rather than certain guidelines. There was a Presidential statement adopted, therefore I met the President of the Security Council, the P-5, the Arab Group, and the Turks and Israelis, and all the concerned parties. This is a part of the consultation, rather than getting certain guidelines from any specific group. This consultation will continue. Thank you very much.