The Israeli government is discussing with Cyprus a “major effort” to bring humanitarian aid by sea to the Gaza Strip, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Thursday.
The interview came as Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos was in Israel for talks with Herzog and others on the creation of the maritime humanitarian corridor.
Herzog told the Financial Times: “(Israel) is in serious negotiations with the Cypriot government”. He added that they were trying to allow in more humanitarian aid.
Kombos arrived in Israel on Wednesday night and on Thursday was to be received by Herzog. He was also meeting his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen.
His contacts are expected to focus on the situation in the region following the terrorist attacks by Hamas on October 7, and Israel’s military response that has created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. During his visit, Kombos will also meet with the staff of the Cyprus embassy in Tel Aviv.
President Nikos Christodoulides on Thursday said the Cyprus government was also in contact with UN organisations regarding the corridor.
“There will be trips to the region in the near future, the president of the European Commission is also going to Egypt and Jordan, and we are working towards the implementation of the proposal of the Republic of Cyprus,” he told reporters.
When asked how the proposal was being treated in Israel, Christodoulides said: “The results are positive. Israel sees the need for the existence of this humanitarian aid mission.”
There were some issues, he added, that were raised by the Israelis. Among them was concern that a humanitarian corridor could be used by Hamas terrorists.
Christodoulides said this was raised with him both by Israel and by Egypt. Both countries would want to work with Cypriot authorities on securing the corridor.
“We are specifically talking about the place of arrival, the reception, the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza, that’s why I said that the UN is also involved because it is UN organisations that will take over the distribution of the humanitarian aid that will arrive in Gaza,” the president said.
Cyprus was the only country that submitted a specific plan – a 25-page document – he added, which touches on all aspects.
Asked if the foreign minister would meet the families of hostages in Israel, the president did not rule it out though he did not know the minister’s full programme.
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 Christodoulides.
Cyprus’ plan had gone through all the scenarios in depth, the government has said. There was a short-term, medium-term and long-term scenario of how aid could safely reach Gaza.
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 contribution of other states would be necessary to accomplish the goals.
Also a group of technocrats returned from last week and were accompanying the foreign minister on his trip on Thursday after announcements would be made in the coming days.