Smith, Parliament and Gaza

June 2, 2010 by J-Wire
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Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has updated the Australian Parliament on the Gaza flotilla affair….

Stephen Smith

I will deal firstly with the safety and welfare of Australian citizens and an Australian permanent resident who have been caught up in this matter. I deal firstly with the Sydney Morning Herald photographer and journalist, Kate Geraghty and Paul McGeough.

Kate Geraghty is an Australian citizen; Paul McGeough is a permanent resident of Australia but is understood to be an Irish citizen and travelling on an Irish passport. I make that point,
which I would not normally make public, because it is important as it goes to consular assistance and access.

I indicate that both Ms Geraghty and Mr McGeough are to be transferred from the city of Ashdod to the Beersheba detention centre. Australian officials have been advised that, in the case of Ms Geraghty, consular access will be granted in the course of today, Tel Aviv time. In the case of Mr McGeough, Australian officials have been advised that Irish officials will be granted the same consular access. Australian officials have taken the opportunity, as you would expect, of underlining with Irish officials our very keen interest in the wellbeing of this Australian permanent resident, who would be, as he is to me, well known to many Members of the House. So we expect that in the case of Ms Geraghty, so far as Australian officials are concerned, and the case of Mr McGeough, so far as Irish officials are concerned, consular access will be given in the course of the day, Tel Aviv time. In the meantime, I am advised that the welfare of Ms Geraghty and Mr
McGeough has been confirmed. I made public this morning that there is an Australian citizen, an Australian man, who has been injured through a gunshot wound to the leg. He has undergone surgery and is currently in hospital. He has been visited by Australian officials in hospital, and Australian officials will continue to provide consular assistance to him.

I can advise the House that two Australian women, who were also on board one of the flotilla vessels, are being detained at the Beersheba detention centre. As is the case with detained Australian nationals, Australian officials will be granted consular access to these two women in the course of today, Tel Aviv time.

I indicate to the House that Australian officials are working assiduously with Israeli officials in Canberra, Tel Aviv and New York—working assiduously not just on the matter generally but also to seek to ascertain whether there are any other Australians who have been caught up in this incident.

I can advise the House that to date Australian officials have received no information or evidence which would suggest that any other Australians have been killed or injured in this terrible matter. Our officials continue to work very closely with Israeli officials in that respect.
That deals with consular matters.

Can I make some remarks in the House so far as this terrible and shocking event is concerned. The Australian Government very strongly believes that the onus is now on Israel to conduct a credible and transparent investigation into this matter. That investigation should of course be subject to the scrutiny of the international community. The Security Council, as we speak, is dealing with
this matter and may well later in the night, New York time, issue a statement in respect of these matters. What is required is a transparent and credible investigation by Israel which will be the subject of, obviously, the international community’s scrutiny and which, in Australia’s view, should appropriately be the subject of Security Council consideration.

The Australian Government’s policy position on the blockade of aid or humanitarian assistance to Gaza is well known. We believe there should be an easing of the blockade to enable aid and humanitarian assistance to be delivered to Gaza. We have made that point both to Israel and also in the most recent open session of the Security Council on this matter in October of last year. Australian officials will continue to work closely with Israeli officials on consular matters. We will of course continue to put our view to Israel at officials level in Canberra, Tel Aviv and New York.
We await the deliberations of the Security Council.

While it may well be the case that an easing of the blockade would help prevent such terrible events occurring in the future, I think all Members of the House would have the view that the only long-term, enduring solution to such matters is a long-term, enduring peace in the Middle-East. Such a peace can only be based, can only be predicated, on a two-state solution.
That is why not just this Australian Government, but Australian Governments of both political persuasions, consistently have been very strong supporters of the peace process and very strong supporters of a two-state solution.

The Australia Government urges all of the parties to engage as quickly as possible in the proposed proximity talks.

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