Gaza flotilla group sets sail from Athens

A Swiss firm has cancelled a 3,000-tonne cement order by activists involved in the aid flotilla for Gaza largely thwarted by the Greek authorities, Swedish activists said Wednesday.

In an email to the Ship to Gaza Sweden campaign dated Tuesday, Interbulk trading cited the Greek foreign ministry ruling banning vessels bound for Gaza leaving its ports.

“Therefore, due to Force Majeure we cannot deliver the cement and we are going to send back to your account the 25,200 euro we received as an advance payment,” the email, from a division of Italy’s ItalCementi said.

Ship to Gaza Sweden described the Greek’s ban as “deeply disturbing and completely reprehensible in democratic constitutional states.

“It is difficult to perceive the Greek government’s actions as anything but an assault on the European civil society and business,” it added.

The Swedish ship Juliano was finally permitted to set sail from Athens on Wednesday – not towards Gaza, but to Palea Fokea, a small coastal town south of Athens.

“”We have been invited by the mayor of the town, to celebrate our mission,” Mikael Löfgren, Ship to Gaza’s press coordinator, told The Local on Wednesday afternoon.

The activists hope that this is a sign the Greek government is relenting on the ban.

“The fact that ‘Juliano’ was finally allowed to leave port is a sign that the Greek authorities are coming to their senses,” wrote Ship to Gaza in a statement released Wednesday.

Mikael Löfgren is optimistic.

“Now we are just waiting for the rest of the flotilla to be let go the same way,” he said.

Officials in Athens say they imposed the ban for the “safety” of the activists on board in the wake of last year’s bloody showdown.

On May 31 2010, Israeli commandos raided a six-ship flotilla trying to break the naval blockade on Gaza in a confrontation that left nine Turkish activists dead and dozens of people injured.

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