by Gur Salomon
JERUSALEM, July 3 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday that Israel views the ongoing delay in the departure of an international aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip as a "positive development."
Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Barak attributed the delay to far-reaching action taken by the Prime Minister's Office, the Foreign Ministry and his own ministry to thwart the plans of pro-Palestinian activists to breach the naval blockade on Gaza that Israel imposed in 2006.
"The governments of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey are also working to curb this thing," Barak said, according to a press release issued by his office.
"What helped is the fact that it is clear to everyone that Gaza is open to all civilian products and that the flotilla is a provocation being exploited by various elements, including Hamas," the defense minister said.
On Friday, the Greek government, headed by Prime Minister George Papandreou, issued an order to bar some eight ships currently anchored in Greek ports from departing.
The U.S.-flagged ship, named Audacity of Hope, was forced by a coast guard vessel to return to the port of Perama after it had defied the order and set sail.
The flotilla's organizers, as well as parliamentarians from the leftist opposition in Greece, lambasted Papandreou's government, accusing it of succumbing to Israeli pressure.
Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis said the decision to prevent the flotilla's departure is meant to avoid a "humanitarian disaster" that could possibly occur in a violent confrontation between its passengers and the Israeli navy. He promised to continue deliberating on the matter with the United Nations in order to find a solution.