Efforts intensify to open maritime aid corridor to Gaza

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Cyprus said it is intensifying efforts to get concrete support for opening a maritime sea corridor from the east Mediterranean Island to a besieged Gaza.

President Nikos Christodoulides raised the issue among European Union leaders last week and said he would speak again with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Tuesday to discuss the matter further.

“Cyprus is ready to contribute to establishing a maritime corridor from Cypriot ports to deliver aid to Gaza,” Christodoulides told an energy conference Tuesday.

“Today, I will speak again with the Prime Minister of Israel, as well as with the heads of EU institutions and with the United States, to see how we proceed with implementing this initiative of the Republic of Cyprus,” he added.

He said the country – the nearest EU member state to the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza – was “ready to play a substantial role”.

Nicosia argues its proximity (370 km from Gaza) to the Middle East and good diplomatic relations with Arab neighbours and Israel make it an ideal staging post for aid.

In recent days, Cypriot Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos visited Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

The Cypriot President has also involved Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the conversation.

“At this moment when there is a crisis, there is a role for the Republic of Cyprus to play, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve through our initiatives.”

The logistics of the aid corridor and how it would be secured are issues that need to be agreed upon.

Cyprus has also served as a transit hub for foreign nationals evacuated from Israel since the Hamas gunmen attack, killing hundreds of Israelis on October 7.

“We are continuing diplomatic contacts with states of the region, the EU and the United Nations for this very important humanitarian corridor to become possible,” government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis told a news briefing.

The government proposes to have a constant flow of large quantities of assistance delivered by sea during “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting to enable aid to reach those in need.

Officials say the proposal has the support of many EU states, including Ireland, Spain, France and the Netherlands, and Arab nations such as Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan.

According to the AP, Israel’s paramount concern is to ensure the aid doesn’t contain anything that Hamas could weaponise.

Israel also wants to ensure the containers’ content is vetted before leaving Limassol.

Cyprus is also in contact with the Palestinian authorities to determine which aid is needed the most.

Another issue is whether the supplies will be shipped by commercial or naval vessels.

“Cyprus is offering the geographical location, the infrastructure and the political will for this proposal to proceed,” an official told AP.

Warplanes kept up a relentless barrage of strikes on Gaza, where the bombing campaign has now killed 8,525, according to the latest count given by the Hamas-run health ministry, many of them children.

A fourth week of fighting between Israel and Hamas has created a humanitarian disaster, say aid agencies.