Israeli force on flotilla 'disproportionate': Sarkozy
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday accused Israel of a "disproportionate use of force" in its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Sarkozy "condemns the disproportionate use of force and sends his condolences to the families of the victims," the Elysee presidential palace said in a statement.
"All light must be shed on the circumstances of this tragedy which underlines how urgent it is to relaunch the peace process."
The French foreign ministry "officially expressed the French authorities' reaction to the ambassador of Israel (Daniel Shek) and asked him for an explanation," summoning him on Monday, said ministry spokesman Romain Nadal.
Israeli naval forces stormed six ships bound for besieged Gaza with thousands of tonnes of aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists aboard. Up to 19 of the passengers were killed, according to Israeli media.
Shek told French radio station RTL that Israeli forces had acted in self-defence against an attack by armed passengers in the flotilla.
"When the life of soldiers is in danger as was clearly the case, it is normal and internationally accepted that they have the right to defend themselves," he said, "even in international waters."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner insisted "nothing can justify the use of such violence" after the aid voyage had been known about "several days" in advance.
An association of Jewish groups in France, CRIF, said it "deeply deplored" the killings and warned that they threatened the prospects for a resumption of Middle East peace talks.
"It happened at a moment when there were hopes for peace between Palestinians and Israelis. It is not good news for peace," one of the leaders of CRIF, Haim Musicant, told AFP.
Kouchner reiterated his stance that the Israeli blockade of Gaza should be lifted. "The current situation in Gaza is not tenable," he said in his statement.
"We will take all necessary measures to prevent this tragedy from leading to a new escalation in violence."
© 2010 AFP