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Middle East diplomacy is absent

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The situation in Gaza is escalating to unprecedented levels, where under the guise of defeating terrorism or occupation, the week-long war is fast reaching a point of no return, creating a humanitarian crisis of horrendous proportions.

But this is a problem that has been boiling for years, with foreign powers seeing little need to help resolve the decades-old conflict, fuelled by die-hard terrorist groups that do not want peace with Israel, and the brash establishment of settlements causing a further irreparable rift between the two communities.

Responding to the deadly attacks by Hamas and subsequently prompting Israel to put up a joint front and establish a national unity government, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the war in Gaza would change the face of the Middle East.

If that means uprooting one million Palestinians from the enclave and then razing the Gaza Strip to the ground, hoping that the Hamas fighters would be obliterated, then this will create further hardship, which fosters more extremism.

And the result is what we see today.

Having failed to tame the brewing national sentiments during the Arab Spring, the uprising in Egypt, the civil war in Syria, let alone the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now the explosive situation in Israel, the European Union has been demoted to an apathetic observer as the Middle East flares up, once again.

The waves of hundreds and thousands of refugees should have been an alarm call for Europe to take a more active role in regional diplomacy and peace-building.

Instead, it has surrendered the game to its Western allies.

Turkey continues to stoke wars and act as a peace-loving mediator, the Russia-Ukraine strife sees no end of being settled, and refugees are overrunning countries such as Lebanon that no one wants to deal with.

The EU funded the Palestinian authorities with some €300 mln last year to help with infrastructure, mainly in the West Bank, where extremist Hamas has less control.

It will have to pump more if anything is left standing in Gaza.

However, handing out financial aid is not a problem solver. Sticking to words of condemnation will not put out the flames.

The EU’s diplomatic team needs to be at the forefront of mediation.

If not, the problem will overflow into Egypt, Jordan, and the overburdened Lebanon.

The boats will keep coming, landing in Cyprus, the Aegean, Malta, and southern Italy.

On several occasions, Cyprus has contributed to the process by successfully helping evacuate foreign citizens out of the conflict zone or hosting some meetings.

It must utilise its warm relations with Israel, the Palestinians, and neighbouring Arab nations by taking over the role of the EU’s non-existent mediators.

Sending the occasional firefighting helicopter to put out summer blazes should not be enough.

Opening hospitals to victims on both sides of the conflict would be a first step.

Encouraging dialogue at a community level is another, albeit risky, at the current phase of hatred and mistrust.

The greater good of the entire eastern Mediterranean must be considered, where any flare-up will have long-term and negative repercussions throughout, including Cyprus.

Bold initiatives are needed. Or else the entire region will fast become a sinking ship for us all, unable to rescue anyone on board.