ATHENS (JTA) – The Greek government is trying to stop its citizens from joining an international flotilla that will try to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Greece, which has growing ties with Israel, said in a statement from its Foreign Ministry that while it is against the blockade of Gaza and the use of violence to prevent ships from reaching the coastal strip, "taking into consideration the appeal of the United Nations General Secretary, we encourage Greek citizens as well as ships under Greek registry not to take part in the new flotilla headed to Gaza" on Saturday.
The flotilla will not help the humanitarian situation, the statement said.
"Greek foreign policy is set by the Greek government, which has in mind the advancement of Greek interests," it said. "In these moments [the citizens] must show the corresponding responsibility or take full responsibility of their actions."
Israel’s ambassador to Greece, Arye Mekel, welcomed the Foreign Ministry statement.
Greek activists calling themselves A Ship to Gaza have organized a series of events about the situation in the Middle East that include movie presentations, concerts and discussions. At the events, the Greek flotilla organizers have portrayed themselves as defenders of human rights and democracy throughout the region.
However, A Ship to Gaza reportedly has proven to be a political movement of Greek extreme left-wing activists and anarchist sympathizers who support terrorist groups such as Hamas, have allied themselves with extremist Muslim-Turkish organizations and lend legitimacy to authoritarian regimes like Iran.
The activists have not hidden their opposition to the recent improvement in the relations among Greece, Israel and Cyprus.
Vangelis Pissias, the head of A Ship to Gaza, in a February interview with the Greek public television station ET-3, voiced his strong opposition to the improvement in Greco-Israeli ties and praised attempts to derail them. He said the new flotilla is "part of this effort."
The Greek Free Gaza website has condemned the visits of Israeli officials to Greece.
Greek media have come out in support of the ministry’s statement, including outlets that have been traditionally anti-Israel.
Israeli Navy commandoes boarded a Turkish ship in an international flotilla in May 2010 that tried to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza. Nine people aboard the Mavi Marmara ship were killed in the ensuing violence.