Israeli flotilla raid must not be repeated: Putin

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Israel's deadly raid on an aid flotilla for Gaza was a tragedy that demands detailed investigation and must not be repeated, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told AFP in an interview.

"What is especially tragic is that this act was carried out in neutral waters," the Russian prime minister said in a discussion late Monday in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.

"This is something entirely new and of course requires careful review. Everything needs to be done to make sure that nothing of the kind happens again," Putin warned.

Asked if Russia wanted Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza, he stated: "We have always called for the lifting of the blockade.

"I don't think such methods are effective in resolving the problems faced in the region."

Putin compared Israel's struggle with extremism to Russia's own battle with militants and instability in the North Caucasus region and suggested experience showed that Israel should change tactics.

"Using such means will not solve the problems the region faces. I am not saying now which means will solve them, but only which ones are wrong.

"I want to stress that we have always proceeded from the position that all the people living in this region have a right to secure self-development, including Israel.

"But ... how these goals should be achieved -- this is of course a question that requires separate review, separate discussion following the recent tragic events" over the flotilla, he said.

Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza after the Islamic militant group Hamas came to power there following elections in 2007, in an effort to stop rocket attacks from the territory on Israel.

The West and the Jewish state classify Hamas as a terror movement but Russia does not and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has been received by top Russian officials in Moscow on several occasions in recent years.

Putin's comments came a day before the United States voiced its support for international participation in Israel's probe of the deadly raid.

In Istanbul on Tuesday, Putin denounced the Israeli raid as a "crude violation" of international law and said Russia intended to raise the issue of who should carry out the probe of the convoy raid at the United Nations.

The Israeli raid, which left nine dead, sparked furious responses from many in the international community, with Turkey reacting particularly harshly.

Eight of those killed in the raid were Turkish citizens and the ninth held both US and Turkish citizenship.

Russia's relationship with Israel improved steadily between 2000 and 2008 during Putin's two terms as Russian president. The Kremlin however has at the same time sought to rebuild long-standing and close relationships with Arab countries.

© 2010 AFP

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