Denmark Hosts Gaza Arms Smuggling Meeting

Experts from nine countries including the United States, Britain and France met in Copenhagen Wednesday to discuss ways of combating weapons smuggling into Gaza, the Danish foreign ministry said.

The meeting took place amid calls for demonstrations in Copenhagen denouncing what organizers called “the Danish government’s one-sided acceptance of a pro-Israeli agenda.”

The Initiative for a Free Palestine group sent out flyers calling for protests at the Danish foreign ministry to highlight the right of the Gaza population to defend itself from Israeli aggression.

No political decisions are expected at the two-day conference, which will focus more on arms trafficking from the sea than the underground tunnels between Egypt and the Palestinian territory.

The meeting "will seek to map the challenges related to illicit arms trafficking to Gaza, including the political, juridical, diplomatic and technical aspects of potential international contributions to handle this challenge," the ministry said in a statement.

The countries attending the meeting were invited for their "maritime expertise," the ministry said. The experts come from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said in the statement that re-opening the borders to Gaza was "crucial" to putting an end to the smuggling.

"There is a need for immediate full access for humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Gaza needs to be started," he said.

"At the same time, it is important to ensure that an opening of the borders does not entail that the population of Gaza once again risk to be taken hostage by fighting initiated by Hamas," Moeller said.

"A sustained opening of the borders to Gaza is therefore related to the efforts to prevent the smuggling of weapons."

At the end of January France sent a frigate to international waters off the coast of Gaza to participate in a mission against weapons smuggling in the Palestinian territory.

One of the declared objectives of Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza last month was to destroy the tunnels which the Jewish state says Hamas use to smuggle weapons.

(, AFP, PC)

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