Cyprus has received 26 requests from 26 countries for support in transporting foreign nationals currently in Gaza or Israel to their home countries via the island, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said on Monday.
He was speaking after a national council meeting chaired by President Nikos Christodoulides, exploring the humanitarian role Cyprus can play as the Middle East crisis continues to unfold.
“We are responding to the maximum of our abilities.”
For the 26 requests, Cyprus will operate as a transit point.
Asked whether Cyprus can handle a massive influx of civilians, under the weight of the ongoing migration issue generally, the spokesman said “already, the burden that our country has undertaken in terms of migration flows is unbearable.
“At the moment, based on the geographical data on the ground, migration does not seem to be one of the first immediate risks, but I repeat that we are assessing all the data as it evolves day by day, hour by hour on how we can respond.”
So far 447 individuals departed from Cyprus and 600 have arrived through the Estia Plan. This does not include the Israelis – at least 2,500 – who arrived on commercial flights in the past week, nor the revised figure of 160 waiting to leave Haifa on a ship on Monday.
Letymbiotis highlighted that during Monday’s national council meeting, there was an exchange of views over the situation in the region and how the possible developments could affect Cyprus.
“We are now observing a geopolitical shift that we have to watch closely. We are following all the scenarios closely, the next few days are critical,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government has already made a first assessment of the consequences of the war on Cyprus’ economy, Letymbiotis noted. The findings were discussed during the national council meeting, but details were not shared with the media.
“A first assessment has been made of the economic consequences, both immediate and medium-term. It is a study that will have to be constantly updated and monitored.”
He suggested “recent events” were bound to affect inflation to one degree or another, but this would be something that the government is preparing for, “so as to safeguard our economy”.
Commenting on Christodoulides’ call with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Letymbiotis said Cyprus’ president expressed “his willingness and intention to contribute in any way he can, as the member state closest to the region and which has excellent relations with most of the states in the region, in any way he can contribute positively.
“Tomorrow the president of the Republic will raise this issue with the European Council.”
Letymbiotis also addressed the increased presence of naval forces in Cyprus’ waters, saying “the fact that Cyprus is being recognised as a pillar of stability in the region is something that we and the international community understand. What we are focusing on is to remain firm in the long-standing relations that we have with the countries of the region, and this is something that the president highlighted yesterday to Mr Netanyahu, but also with the countries of the west, with the EU, and to remain the pillar of stability in the region, the firmly committed country that does not deviate from its long-standing positions on issues that either relate to UN resolutions or the provision of humanitarian assistance.”