US-EU Plan to Stop Gaza Arms Smuggling

In a covert meeting held in London on Friday, March 13, the United States and eight allies agreed a plan to stop arms smuggling into the besieged Gaza Strip.

"What it (the plan) does is provide a platform to start some form of practical cooperation," a senior British diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The plan, agreed by the US, Canada and 7 European states, envisages interception at sea, information sharing and diplomatic pressure to stop arms reaching Gaza.

"(All NATO members, will) take action, to the extent that national legal authorities permit and consistent with international law, to support interdiction efforts," said the diplomat.

"Such efforts may include enquiry, boarding, searching, stopping, seizing, or other efforts necessary to prevent transfers of arms, ammunition and weapons components."

The diplomat stressed that naval ships would not use force to stop arms smuggling into the besieged strip.

The nine states also proposed sharing information about points of origin, carriers and transit routes of suspected arms shipments.

They also promised cooperation to put diplomatic pressure on countries involved to stop weapons reaching the impoverished territory.

The British official said that countries are not obliged to join any particular action.

Opposition

Egypt and the Palestinian Authority were invited to the meeting but declined to attend, a British diplomat told the Dubai-based Al-Bayan daily.

Egypt and the PA declined a similar invitation from Copenhagen to participate in a similar meeting last month.

Egypt, the only Arab country that borders Gaza, has reacted angrily to a recent deal between the US and Israel to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza.

Egypt said it would not be abide by any deal that could harm its sovereignty, warning it would not allow any foreign navy force to operate inside its territorial water.

France, a NATO state, sent a frigate in January to patrol water off Gaza to stop arms smuggling into the strip. Paris later withdrew the frigate.

International calls to stop the alleged flow of arms into Gaza grew sharply after Israel’s three-week war, which killed more than 1,350 people, mostly civilians, and wounded 5,450.

The onslaught, the deadliest ever against Gaza, wrecked havoc infrastructure, leaving nearly 20,000 homes and thousands of other buildings damaged.

Last month, Amnesty International called on the international community to stop arming Israel.

The London-based human rights group said Israel has directly and indiscriminately used its military arsenal against Gaza civilians.
 
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)

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