UN official denies overlap between two probes of Israeli flotilla raid
The head of the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday denied that the body's investigation of Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla has been made redundant by the announcement of a higher-profile UN probe. Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand defended the Geneva-based council's investigation into the May 31 incident, which was launched before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced a high-level panel on Monday. Phuangketkeow urged Israel to cooperate with both. "There's a clear distinction between the two missions and the mandates given," Phuangketkeow told reporters, dismissing suggestions that the 47-nation council's probe was now superfluous. "I feel very strongly that we have to proceed." Ban's probe has a greater international profile, as it is led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. It will also get more input from the parties through the inclusion of a Turkish and an Israeli representative, and reports submitted by the two countries. Phuangketkeow said the rights council's mission will try to travel to the region to interview people in person, but Israel had previously said it would refuse to take part. "This mission is not about finger-pointing, but about establishing facts," Phuangketkeow said, adding that its members were chosen because they had made no public comment on the incident. Both teams are expected to publish their findings next month. Israel said Monday it will work with Ban's panel but has yet to say if it will cooperate with the rights council's probe. Phuangketkeow said it would be "in the interest of Israel to do so."