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Palestine | International

Leftist Greek MPs accuse government of caving to Israeli pressure to stop Gaza flotilla
by Haaretz
Sunday Jul 3rd, 2011 4:50 AM
Amira Hass, Jul 3, 2011
Eight ships in the Gaza-bound flotilla were barred from leaving the Greek ports where they are anchored in the wake of an order issued on Friday by the Greek government. Flotilla participants and members of the leftist opposition in Greece have accused the Socialist government of caving in to Israeli pressure - a claim rejected by Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis.

The Greek government is preventing the departure of the vessels in order to avoid a "humanitarian disaster" which will result from a violent confrontation with the Israeli navy, Lambrinidis told Veronique De Keyser, a Belgian member of the European Parliament. The information was received by a member of the Belgian delegation on the vessel Tahrir, in an email from De Keyser, who is also vice chairman of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

The foreign minister also promised De Keyser that he will continue to negotiate with the UN in order to find a solution to the flotilla crisis.

The ban applies to all Greek and foreign vessels in Greek ports heading to Gaza.

Meanwhile, some of the participants at the Socialist International in Athens, presided over by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, were critical of Papandreou's instructions to block the flotilla, according to flotilla activists. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who heads the Palestinian national initiative movement which participated in the meeting, described the Greek government's instructions as a shameful surrender.

The organizers of the flotilla are considering legal action to cancel the Greek ban on the departure of the ships. They are also trying to rally members of leftist parties in various countries and the European Parliament to convince the Greek government to change the orders.

Most of the approximately 300 activists are still in the ports where the ships are anchored, in the hope that they may be able to set sail for the Gaza Strip.

Before the official publication of the instructions at 4:30 P.M. on Friday, the boat of the American delegation tried to set sail from the port of Perama without clearance from the Greek authorities. The ship was carrying 51 passengers, including five members of the crew and 11 journalists.

According to the flotilla organizers, the delays by the Greek authorities in granting permission to sail stemmed from political pressure.

The American ship, Audacity of Hope, named after the book written by President Barack Obama, was blocked by a vessel of the Greek coast guard.

To read the full article please visit Haaretz.