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Clinton Urges Caution in Aftermath of Gaza Flotilla Raid

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday appealed for caution by all those involved in the aftermath of Israel's lethal raid against a flotilla that tried to deliver aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is being dispatched to the region for urgent contacts with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

The Israeli military operation against the aid flotilla that killed at least nine pro-Palestinian activists has complicated U.S. efforts to expedite Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi, Clinton said the incident underscores the need to reach a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict. She urged restraint on the part of all those involved in the incident.

"I think the situation from our perspective is very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned," said Hillary Clinton. "But we fully support the U.N. Security Council's action last night in issuing a presidential statement. And we will work to implement the intention that this presidential statement represents."

The United States joined other U.N. Security Council member countries in a statement expressing deep regret over the casualties in the Israeli operation, and condemning acts that resulted in the loss of life and other casualties.

The council called for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation of the incident conforming to international standards.

The Obama administration says Israel is "best positioned" to conduct the investigation. But Clinton said the United States is open to alternate ideas.

"We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria," she said. "We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation. And we will continue to discuss these ideas with the Israelis and our international partners in the days ahead."

Clinton urged Israel to allow consular access to all activists detained after the incident and immediately repatriate the dead and injured.

She also called the broader situation in Israeli-blockaded Gaza "unsustainable and unacceptable." Clinton said humanitarian needs in the Hamas-controlled area must be met along with legitimate Israeli security concerns.

The secretary of state discussed the situation earlier Tuesday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglo, who had come from the Security Council deliberations in New York.

The Turkish official told reporters that the Israeli attack on the flotilla, which carried about 300 Turkish nationals, was the psychological equivalent for Turkey of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Davutoglo urged outright U.S. condemnation of what he called a criminal act by Israel.

"What do we expect? One, a clear and formal apology from the Israeli government, not only for the people of Turkey, but for the international community for the families of those who lost their lives," said Ahmet Davutoglo. "Second, an independent, not national, investigation - an objective transparent investigation. If someone says Israel can do their own investigation, no. It did not happen in the territories of Israel, it happened on the international sea."

The Turkish foreign minister said the attack scuttled an effort by his government to broker renewed, indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria.

U.S. Middle East envoy Mitchell moved up his planned departure for the region by several hours because of the flotilla incident. He is expected to meet Palestinian leaders on Wednesday and Israeli officials on Thursday in a bid to salvage U.S.-brokered "proximity" peace talks.