Merkel proposes Mideast Quartet for Gaza probe

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed Thursday that the international Middle East Quartet join a probe of the deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, in a call to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

"The chancellor suggested that representatives of the Middle East Quartet, to which the European Union, the United Nations, Russia and the United States belong, take part in the investigation," her spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said.

The Middle East Quartet is seeking a resolution to the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday condemned Israeli's "outrageous attack" on Gaza-bound aid ships Monday in which nine activists were killed, and set up an independent international investigation into the raid.

But Israel on Thursday dismissed the decision, saying the Human Rights Council had no moral authority.

During the phone call with Abbas, Merkel expressed her "shock" over the Israeli forces' action and her condolences for the lost of life.

"Both agreed that decisive steps toward de-escalation of the situation are needed and in particular, that a comprehensive, transparent investigation of the events must follow," Wilhelm said in a statement.

"Both sides also agreed in their call for Israel to open the borders of the Gaza Strip for humanitarian aid and reconstruction."

Six Germans who were on the aid flotilla have left Israel, the defence ministry in Berlin said Thursday.

The German government had said Wednesday that the six, including one who was injured, were being detained in Israel.

At least 11 Germans were on the boats. Five, including two deputies from the far-left Die Linke party, a former deputy and a doctor, had already been deported.

© 2010 AFP

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