New Zealand imposes diplomatic sanctions on Israel
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark imposed diplomatic sanctions on Israel on Thursday, shortly after a local court sentenced two Israelis for attempting to unlawfully obtain a New Zealand passport.
Israel breached New Zealand's sovereignty and international law when two of its agents attempted to fraudulently obtain a passport, Clark noted.
According to her, "there were very strong reasons to believe" the two Israelis - Uriel Zosha Kelman, 31, and Elisha Cara, 50 - "were acting on behalf of Israel's intelligence services." The defendants had previously denied media reports that they were members of the Mossad.
Clark added in a statement Thursday that New Zealand was suspending high-level visits to and from Israel, requiring a visa application from any Israelis visiting New Zealand in an official government capacity, and delaying approval for appointment of the new Israeli ambassador to New Zealand.
She also said New Zealand was not interested in having President Moshe Katsav visit the country in August as part of his scheduled trip to Australia.
"New Zealand condemns without reservation these actions by agencies of the Israel government," Clark said in the statement. She said Israel was asked for an explanation and an apology three months ago, but has not provided either one.
"The Israeli agents attempted to demean the integrity of the New Zealand passport system and could have created considerable difficulties for New Zealanders presenting their passports overseas in future," Clark said.
"This type of behaviour is unacceptable internationally by any country. It is a sorry indictment of Israel that it has again taken such actions against a country with which it has friendly relations."
She recalled it was not the first time Israel had sought fraudulently to obtain passports from another country.
"Israeli agents caught in an unsuccessful assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997 were found to be carrying fraudulent Canadian passports," she said. "While we regret the need for it, New Zealand has no option but to take the actions that it has in response to a deliberate breach of its sovereignty."
The Auckland High Court sentenced Kelman and Cara on Thursday to six months in jail and a fine of 50,000 New Zealand dollars each.
The New Zealand media quoted government sources who claimed the two were part of a Mossad cell that was working to obtain New Zealand passports for use in secret operations. (albawaba.com)
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