Britain is considering using “air and maritime options” from its bases in Cyprus to get more aid into Gaza, it was reported on Tuesday.
According to reports in the UK and Israeli press, the UK’s minister for state at the foreign office Andrew Mitchell, updating the Commons on the government’s response to the Israel-Gaza situation, said: “At this point we assess that land presently offers the most viable and safe way to get humanitarian aid into Gaza in the quantities needed, but we are also considering air and maritime options, including through our bases in Cyprus.”
Meanwhile, Cyprus is still working on ways to help establish a humanitarian sea corridor to Gaza.
Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos outlined Cyprus’ proposal during the EU Foreign Affairs Council held in Brussels on Monday.
The foreign minister referred to a “concrete implementation plan with immediate, medium and long-term solutions, as well as technical arrangements” as presented last week in Paris by President Nikos Christodoulides.
The fact that Cyprus is the closest European state in the region with long-standing excellent relations with the states of the region, is a supportive factor in the implementation of the plan, Kombos said.
The Cyprus News Agency reported that some member states have shown interest in contributing if the initiative goes ahead, although they acknowledge the difficulties caused by the lack of a port for docking the aid at this stage.
On Tuesday, Government Spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis was asked about the possibility that the initiative was more for domestic consumption and was not feasible. He said: “The fact that there is no port was in our mind from the first moment and therefore it was included in the plans that were made.”
He said Cyprus’ detailed 25-page plan had gone through all the scenarios in depth.
There was a short-term, medium-term and long-term scenario of how aid could safely reach Gaza, he said.
The short term concerns the transfer of aid from Larnaca to the beach in Gaza via landing craft. The medium-term plan was the creation of a floating platform, which was also being considered, and in the long term, the creation of a closed port in the wider area, the spokesman said.
Asked where the technical means would be found for boats to approach the shores of Gaza, Letymbiotis said there would be technical issues because the plan was complex, extensive and unprecedented, not only for Cyprus but also for the region. The contribution of other states would be necessary, he added
When asked if Israel was positive about the idea, the spokesman repeated that a group of technocrats had returned from Israel and will go again with the foreign minister and that announcements would then be made in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Italy is waiting to enter Gaza to install a field hospital. The hospital ship Vulcano that Italy sent last week is currently off the coast of Cyprus waiting for required authorisations to move towards the coast of Gaza or an agreement for maritime humanitarian corridors to transport patients.