Cyprus mulls Israeli request of port for Gaza
Cyprus is examining an Israeli request to build a port facility on the island for the delivery of goods to residents of the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“There is no agreement on this issue” but “there is a relevant request that is under consideration”, deputy government spokeswoman Klelia Vassiliou told reporters.
According to Israeli media, Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman made the proposal for Gaza during a visit last week to the island.
Under the plan, a special pier would be constructed for cargo ships carrying goods bound for Gaza, around 250 miles from Cyprus. It’s proposed location is unknown.
“They would be checked with the help of an Israeli monitoring mechanism to ensure that no weapons were being smuggled” into Gaza, controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas, the Jerusalem Post newspaper said. It said the cargo would then likely be sent to Gaza directly by ferry since the enclave lacks a port large enough for the docking of cargo ships.
“The defence minister and security establishment, along with elements in the international community, are leading many initiatives aimed at changing the reality in the Gaza Strip,” a spokesman for Leberman’s office told AFP.
“Any idea presented to improve the humanitarian situation would be conditioned on solving the issue of the captives (Israelis held in Gaza) and MIAs,” or soldiers gone missing there since 2014. “Beyond that we can’t provide details.” Israel controls two land crossings into Gaza and Egypt controls a third.
The Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border is often closed, and it is not designed for the passage of cargo as most commercial and humanitarian goods enter Gaza through the Kerem Shalom post with Israel. Goods that arrive by ship travel by truck from Israeli ports to the Strip. TelAviv has been promoting the Cyprus port idea to create a conduit into Gaza that does not go through Israel. Security checks would have to be handled by Israel together with an international organisation such as the United Nations.
Cyprus is a base for the UNIFIL maritime task force, the island was used as a stop-off point during the sea evacuation of foreign nationals from Lebanon in 2006 and Paphos’ military airfield has been used to facilitate international humanitarian missions.