Press release 243/2012
24 October 2012
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Finland in Tel Aviv have strived in recent days to ensure the consular rights of Finnish citizens aboard the Estelle ship. A representative of the Embassy in Tel Aviv met with the Finnish citizens deprived of their liberty several times, was in touch with their next of kin, assisted with travel documents and followed their treatment while they were deprived of liberty. To Israel, Finland has emphasised, among other things, the proper treatment of Finns and their right to legal counsel.
Finland and Sweden were in contact with the Israeli authorities yesterday; they stressed the need to be able to provide consular services freely. At the same time they repeated the joint view on the detrimental nature of the blockade of Gaza.
As the Estelle sails under the Finnish flag, Finland followed the course of the ship closely and was in contact with the vessel as it sailed. During the voyage the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi provided information, among other things, about the risks associated with seeking to reach Gaza and the intentions Israel had expressed to Finland in order to ensure that all of the ship’s passengers were aware of the dangers of the trip. In similar situations, several countries have warned their citizens, or vessels flying their flag, of the risks involved in attempting to break the sea blockade. In its contacts with the Israeli authorities, Finland stressed that the vessel is a civil vessel carrying humanitarian supplies and urged Israel to refrain from the use of force and to exercise restraint.
Estelle flies the Finnish flag, but the ship is in use by a Swedish organisation.
Finland does not accept the blockade of Gaza. It should be dismantled without delay. This is also the joint and often repeated EU position. The blockade has an adverse impact on the political situation in the Middle East and causes unnecessary suffering to civilians in Gaza.