Gaza flotilla: Foreign Secretary speaks to BBC News

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Foreign Secretary William Hague discussed the interception of the Gaza flotilla on BBC News. He then took questions from assembled journalists.

**William Hague: ** Well we’ve been having a meeting of the National Security Council today at Chequers for most of the day, chaired by the Prime Minister, primarily on the, on the situation in Afghanistan. We, this is our fourth meeting since the new Government took office, part of getting to grips with the situation on Afghanistan and being able to chart a clear way forward there. Obviously the Prime Minister and I have discussed in the margins of that meeting the, the situation in Gaza.

I’m now on my way to the European Union and Western Balkans Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Sarajevo about how to chart a prosperous secure way forward for the countries of the Western Balkans. But that will also provide an opportunity to discuss with other European Foreign Ministers the incident that’s taken place in the Mediterranean off Gaza.

I do strongly reiterate what we said yesterday, deeply deploring the loss of life, a point that the Prime Minister made very strongly to the Israeli Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu in his conversation with him yesterday. And we have supported and do welcome the UN Security Council deliberations and, and statement overnight calling for a prompt and thorough and credible and transparent investigation of what has happened and of course we look to Israel to cooperate very much to implement that resolution very much with a transparent and thorough investigation.

Our attention today is particularly on the British nationals who are, who have been involved in this incident. I’ve just spoken to our Ambassador in Tel Aviv. Our Consular staff have been visiting the British nationals involved this afternoon. The precise numbers are not absolutely definite because some people were travelling without passports or may have destroyed their papers, or may not yet have identified themselves as British. But as far as we can determ, as we can determine at the moment there are thirty one British nationals who have now been detained by the Israeli authorities, one of whom has already been deported, and there are eleven dual nationals, one of whom was injured and was visited by Consular staff yesterday. So they are all in the process of being visited and Israel is giving us the appropriate Consular access as of course they should.

This whole business has of course once again shone a light on to the situation in Gaza. It’s underlined the need for a durable solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict and to ensure that we don’t now forget the overall position in Gaza, the need for Israel to implement and uphold UN Security Council resolution 1860 calling for the unfettered access of aid and commercial goods to Gaza. And so now we have to keep that in mind and to work on that. This incident should, should underline not undermine the efforts to bring a proper solution …

(Transmission break)

WH: … a prompt and thorough and credible investigation in to what has happened. So those, those statements of course are predicated on the, on the supposition that this what not proportionate, certainly in the way that it turned out. But we’ve said what we said at the Security Council and elsewhere.

**Unidentified Reporter: ** Now presumably you’ve spoken to your Israeli counterpart. What, can you characterise that, that conversation?

**WH: ** Well the Prime Minister spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister. I’m hoping to speak later on to the Israeli Foreign Minister although my colleague Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office Minister, has spoken to the Israeli Ambassador. So we have conversations going on at many different levels with Israel and our message to them has been exactly what we’ve been saying in public. And also our concern has been to have proper access to the British nationals involved which as I was just explaining, as far as we can see is now being sorted out.

**Unidentified Reporter: ** If this is to have any, make any progress from this, you need Muslim countries, Israel needs Muslim countries on its side. It’s just lost its, perhaps its closest ally in Turkey. This is pretty worrying isn’t it?

WH: Yes it is. This is something that Israel must really bear in mind. Turkey was a country which until recently had played a major role in trying to bring Syria and Israel closer together, for instance, in trying to negotiate a peace treaty between Syria and Israel. And so the fact that Turkey has become so detached from Israel, not just over this incident, but over the, over the course of the last eighteen months, should be worrying and it is, it is vital for the Middle East peace process now to make progress for the Proximity Talks that have started recently to make further progress and as I’ve been saying this incident should underline rather than undermine the need to take that work forward.

**Unidentified Reporter: ** And lastly these, the British citizens, we’ve spoken to some of their families, they’re telling us they haven’t managed to speak to them. Israel’s supposed to be a friend of the UK and yet here we have some Israeli, some British citizens, their families can’t speak to them, one of them apparently is in a jail, this is pretty worrying.

**WH: ** Well they are in a jail, they have been detained and they are in Beersheba, a jail, in a prison in Southern Israel. We expect them to be deported very quickly, but of course the purpose of our Consular staff having access to them this afternoon, part of the purpose is to make sure they can also have proper communications with their families.

**Unidentified Reporter: ** And you’re content that the Israelis are cooperating with you in that (indistinct)?

**WH: ** Well as of this afternoon they were giving our Consular staff the access to those people. Of course I’m in constant touch with that situation and we’re, we’re continuing to work on it.

**Unidentified Reporter: ** Thank you very much.

**WH: ** Thank you very much indeed.