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Amalthea talks gather more than 40 nations for Gaza route

Minister Kombos to lead nations in Cyprus

Newsroom / CNA

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Constantinos Kombos, announced that representatives from over 40 countries will meet in Cyprus on March 21st to discuss the operational coordination of the next steps regarding the maritime corridor to the Gaza Strip, speaking upon his arrival to the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council which is held on Monday in Brussels.

This meeting in Cyprus, Kombos explained, will focus on scaling up capacity at the stages of departure, transport and distribution of the aid, as well as the establishment of a specialised fund to support the project in the long term.

The Foreign Minister also pointed out that small technical issues that arose during the departure of the first shipment have been taken into account, and noted that the creation of a temporary jetty by the US is proceeding and could be ready earlier than initially discussed. He also pointed out that originally Cyprus worked alone on the proposal, but that what is important now is that it is being implemented.

Upon arriving to the FAC, Kombos said that he would be updating the Council as to the progress regarding the maritime corridor, and noted that “the first shipment of 200 tons has arrived in Gaza and has been safely distributed”.

“A second, larger shipment is ready to depart as we speak. We now have therefore proof of concept and the aim is to continue, in a systematic and scaled up way, the flow of shipments to Gaza” he added, pointing out that “what happened is that Israel has lifted the naval blockade of Gaza exclusively for their Amalthea plan”.

Noting that the aim is to continue “with the logistical upgrade of the whole structure”, Kombos pointed out that “to this end we continue to see the usefulness of the land and air crossings and we insist that this is a complementary and additive effort”.

The Minister also thanked Egypt and Jordan “for all the work they have been doing all this time”, and added that the Cypriot initiative is complementary to those efforts. He also pointed out that Cyprus “has been working on this for a long time and the support by the United States and the UAE has been instrumental”, and added that Cyprus is extremely pleased that there is now a “growing international humanitarian coalition”.

Regarding the next steps, the Minister said that the first thing needed is to scale up the capacity in terms of the departure point, the means of transport and the distribution network, as well as “the establishment of a fund for the financing of the project” and “the successful and effective integration of interested parties”.

“To this end, there is a meeting scheduled on the 21st of March in Cyprus with the participation of more than 40 countries, exactly in order to see operationally how we can proceed”.

He further explained that the meeting on the 21st of March concerns “how we can scale up operational capacity also in terms of how we can have additional means of transport and also in terms of distribution network”. Regarding the fund, he said that the participants will discuss “the modalities in relation to that, the ring fencing of the fund, because this is going to be a project that is for the long run, and it needs to be financed properly in a secure way, with accountability through which the countries that want to participate will be able to submit their pledges”.

Commenting on the role that the EU will have in this meeting, the Minister pointed out that the EU is already on the ground with a team from DG ECHO. “They have been very supportive, especially the President of the European Commission, and we are using their expertise and their logistical capacity both on the ground and in terms of the planning” he said.

“We have established a maritime corridor for Gaza, which is a lifeline for the people in Gaza. And to this end, we'll continue to work with our partners” Kombos added.

Responding to a question on the progress of works on a temporary jetty by the US off the coast of Gaza, Kombos said that the information he has is that it is proceeding and that the end of the construction is closer in time to what was originally discussed.

“This is going to be very important because it's going to enable a more systematic flow of aid” he added, underlining that this is to be “in cooperation with interested parties Cyprus included and that would be a game changer”.

Responding to a question on why the proposal took five months to be implemented, Kombos said that Cyprus has been pushing for this adding that “we are happy with the result, that finally the international community and important players have seen the value of this and we're looking forward”.

“We have done the work for a long time, we have been alone in this, but what is important is at the end of the day this is happening, because the people of Gaza need all the aid that they can get”, Kombos stressed.

Asked to assess the implementation of the project so far, Kombos said that “we’ve seen a number of minor issues of technical nature that we have incorporated in the updating of the planning”. He said there were “minor issues in terms of the platforms, of the barges, in terms of the small pier that has been constructed”.

“All these are issues that delayed in a way the actual distribution, the arrival and distribution, but no major issue has arisen. We have dealt with this and we are moving forward with the next bigger shipment” he said.

Regarding the capacity of the corridor, Kombos said that “we have the capacity to continue with a consistent flow” which “of course depends on the pledges by countries that are interested”, the vessels needed and the distribution network in Gaza itself, which needs to be able to make good use of the aid in an efficient way.

“So, we cannot overburden that system and this is why we are looking into building up the capacity in terms of adding up recipients of the aid in terms of the distribution” he said, noting that this is something that will be discussed on March 21st.

Finally, regarding security and the checks conducted before the aid leaves Larnaca, Kombos sais that the security protocol “has been designed for some time now in cooperation with the Israeli side”. The aid so far includes primarily food and other related supplies, and the next step is expected to include medicine. Also, he said, the aid is being distributed currently by the NGO World Central Kitchen.

Cyprus  |  Amalthea  |  Gaza  |  minister

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