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12° Nicosia,
29 February, 2024
 
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Cyprus' challenge to open Gaza's maritime path

A lifeline for Gaza in choppy waters

George Kakouris

George Kakouris

Cyprus' proposal for a maritime humanitarian corridor to Gaza is gaining momentum in European discussions. However, practical challenges tied to the port situation in the besieged Palestinian area have kept the effort in a preliminary stage.

Community sources acknowledge the current inability to provide a specific timetable for implementation.

In discussions with "K," a community source emphasizes that there are no ongoing talks with Israelis yet, stating that "first we have to see how it will work."

The absence of a large port in Gaza poses practical difficulties, leading to considerations of solutions such as constructing a temporary floating structure at sea.

A specific plan has been prepared for the initiative, outlining immediate, medium, and long-term solutions and technical arrangements. In a briefing in Brussels, an EU diplomatic source applauds Cyprus' proposal as "clear and precise," but a specific timetable is currently unavailable. The "Amaltheia initiative," presented by President Christodoulides in Paris, aims to transfer aid by sea directly to Gaza, filling needs not adequately covered through the Rafah crossing.

Public statements from leaders like Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen express support, but a timetable remains uncertain. In an interview with Le Monde, President Christodoulides indicates the proposed endpoint in the southwestern part of Gaza, as discussed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, concerns from Israel about the possibility of transferring military equipment or the risk of aid reaching Hamas have been raised.

Addressing port infrastructure challenges, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis notes the difficulties in implementation. Despite Greece's initially measured stance, Mitsotakis expresses intention to participate with specific conditions.

In a Friday briefing ahead of the EU foreign ministers' meeting on Monday, an EU official highlights Brussels' welcome but emphasizes the need for practical arrangements due to Gaza's port condition. Implementing solutions takes time, requires approval from Israel, and involves security measures. While Cyprus' proposal is considered "clear and precise," the EU cannot provide a timetable at the current stage.

When asked about Israel's stance, the official mentions that discussions with Israelis have not started, emphasizing the need to agree on aid delivery amid hostilities.

President Christodoulides outlines the five stages of the proposal at the International Humanitarian Conference in Paris, detailing a secure one-way sea corridor.

The stages include aid transfer in Cyprus, inspection and inventory, vessel loading, sea transfer with warship escort, and aid reception in Gaza with involvement from international organizations and the Palestinian Authority.

The proposal for the sea corridor was presented at the summit on October 26, gaining positive views from leaders, including Greece. Contacts have been made with various leaders, and support for the proposal was affirmed in Paris on November 9, with countries like France, Jordan, Belgium, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Greece expressing readiness to provide maritime resources.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  Gaza  |  Israel  |  president

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