Gaza Flotilla Activists Vow to Proceed Despite Greek Ban

International activists vowed Monday to try to organize a flotilla to bring aid to locked-in Gaza Strip in defiance of a Greek ban on any such ship movements from Greece, coupled with Athens' offer to help organize aid shipments with the UN.

Members of the group “Flotilla 2 – stay human” told the German Press Agency dpa that they would still seek to set sail from Greek ports with aid for Gaza.

But they did not say when or how this might take place.

The defiant stance came amid an offer by Greece to help organize sea shipments to Gaza together with the United Nations.

At the same time, Greece warned the activists of the dangers, after Israel had clearly said it would use force against ships trying to break the sea blockade of Gaza.

“We hope that reason will keep the upper hand,” Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delaverkouras told journalists Monday.

“There is a direct danger to human life. We don't need this,” he added.

“We will explain to the activists how we aim to take their humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Delaverkouras said. Athens was also informing the ambassadors of Arab states, he said, while noting that Cyprus, France and Turkey had also imposed a ban on Gaza aid vessels departing from their ports.

Earlier, Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis said that UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had welcomed Athens' idea of Greece cooperating with the UN to organize aid shipments to Gaza.

The UN chief had welcomed it and said this could help lead to a reducing of tensions in the Middle East region, Lambrinidis said.

Greek President Giorgos Papandreou made the proposal on Sunday in a telephone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who for his part pledged his support.

The new Gaza aid flotilla effort aims to set sail with smaller vessels from a number of smaller Greek ports – Perama and Keratsini near Piraeus, Agios Nikolaos and Kolymbari on Crete, and from Corfu.

On Saturday, the Greek coast guard arrested a US ship captain who with his vessel “Audacity of Hope” aimed to defy the Greek ban and set sail for Gaza from Keratsini.

Greek radio reports said upwards of 50 passengers were also on board the ship. On Sunday, the Greek foreign ministry then made written offer to activists to cooperate with the UN in transporting aid goods to Gaza.

On Sunday evening, some 50 activists staged protests outside the Israeli and US embassies in Athens to protest against Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.

The new Gaza flotilla effort to break the Israeli blockade comes a little more than a year after the first one, during which nine activists on one vessel were killed by Israeli military commandoes.

© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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