UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed support for Greece's initiative to use Greek vessels to route humanitarian aid to Gaza through regular existing channels, a UN announcement said after a telephone conversation on Sunday night between the UN chief and Greek foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis.
"The Secretary-General and the Minister discussed recent developments in the Middle East, including the Secretary-General's efforts to restart talks on the Middle East peace process," the UN statement said, adding that "the Secretary-General thanked the Minister for briefing him on Greece's initiative to use Greek vessels to route humanitarian aid to Gaza through regular existing channels, in close coordination with the United Nations."
"The Secretary-General expressed his support for the Greek initiative. In his view, it could help to reduce tensions in the region and ensure much-needed aid is delivered to those who need it in Gaza, the statement continued, adding that the UN chief "said the United Nations would work closely with Greece, Israel and Palestinian authorities on this matter.'
"The Secretary-General said he hoped the flotilla organizers would agree to this initiative," the UN announcement concluded.
In Athens, a Greek foreign ministry announcement said that Lambrinidis "conferred by telephone today (Sunday) with the Secretary General of the United Nations" and that Lambrinidis "congratulated Mr. Ban on his recent re-election as Secretary General of the UN and expressed the Greek government’s will to collaborate closely with him".
"During their talk, they discussed recent developments in the Middle East, with Mr. Lambrinidis expressing Greece’s firm support for the Secretary General’s efforts to reopen the talks within the framework of the Middle East peace process. Mr. Lambrinidis also briefed Mr. Ban on Greece’s initiative to undertake transport of humanitarian aid to Gaza following relevant actions on the part of NGOs," the foreign ministry said.
Lambrinidis also "voiced Greece’s request for the cooperation of the UN so that the whole effort might be carried out within the framework set forth by the Secretary General in his letter to the Greek Prime Minister and in accordance with existing procedures," the ministry added.
"Mr. Ban expressed his keen support for the Greek initiative and assured the Greek Foreign Minister that the competent UN services are available to work with Greece to carry it through," the foreign ministry announcement concluded.
Gaza flotilla ship remains docked in Hania
The Spanish vessel“Guernica”, one of the so-called “Freedom Flotilla II” vessels carrying activists and humanitarian aid to Gaza, has remained docked in Hania, Crete, for the past 16 days.
The “Guernica”, with 45 activists on board, and all other ships participating in the flotilla destined for Gaza are banned from leaving Greek seaports, following a decision by the Greek government.
The ship’s passengers and crew and representatives of groups supporting the Free Gaza movement protested outside the Hania Port Authority building on Monday, charging that the decision to ban its departure is a violation of international law.
A demonstration will take place in Hania on Monday afternoon.
Harbour Corps stops ship sailing for Gaza
The Comores flag ship "Tahrir" which is participating in the sending of humanitarian aid to Gaza sailed from the port of Agios Nikolaos, on the island of Crete, on Monday despite the ban and following an operation carried out to locate it the ship ultimately returned to the gulf of Agios Nikolaos, escorted by the Harbour Corps.
It is the second ship stopped by the Harbour Corps for ignoring the ministerial decision banning sailings. On Friday, Harbour Corps officials had stopped the American flag ship "Audacity of Hope" that had sailed from Perama with Gaza as its destination.