Lebanese Transport Minister
Ghazi Aridi confirmed on Sunday night that the ministry had allowed a aid vessel to sail from Lebanon to Cyprus before heading to Gaza Strip, local An-Nahar daily reported on Monday.
According to Aridi, his ministry has given the aid ship "Julia" permission to sail from Lebanon's port city of Tripoli following the request from the ship's organizers, Xinhua reported.
Aridi's remarks came as Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that the Jewish state had initiated diplomatic efforts designed to prevent the departure of the ship "Mariam," another ship to be used by Lebanese and foreign activists to carry aid to the enclave.
Israel has been in touch with the UN, the
United States, France, Spain and Germany on this issue, it has also been speaking with the Vatican because "Mariam" is expected to include several dozens of Catholic nuns, Ha'aretz said.
However, Aridi said "Mariam" was not the ship's name, stressing that the voyage was christened "Mariam" in honor of Virgin Mary.
While confirming that Julia's first destination will be
Cyprus and not Gaza, the minister stressed that he won't sign on any illegal sail. He said "Julia" was registered in Paris and would have Lebanese and foreigners on board.
Aridi also stressed that Julia's voyage to Cyprus was not in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701 and the vessel would undergo a technical checkup before it sails from Tripoli.
The Lebanese government is responsible for its decision, Aridi added.
However, Israeli military sources warned that it would be very easy to take control of Iranian and Lebanese ships because they are from countries which are at enmity with the Jewish state, adding Israel would deal firmly with them, according to Ha'aretz.
Two Iranian Red Crescent boats also plan to depart for the enclave.