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Foreign minister defends Cyprus’ stance on Israel-Gaza war

smoke rises after israeli air strikes in gaza, as seen from southern israel
Smoke rises after Israeli air strikes in Gaza, as seen from southern Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, November 21, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos defended the government’s position over the war waging between Israel and Gaza, telling MPs that Cyprus is approaching the idea for a humanitarian corridor “realistically”.

Kombos came under strong fire from Akel MPs at the House finance committee where he presented his ministry’s budget for 2024.

Akel deputy Giorgos Loucaides charged at Kombos saying “you are the only government on the planet that has not said a word of criticism,” wondering whether “there is a modicum of self-respect in this country which is occupied, and an ounce of sensitivity for the crimes committed by the State of Israel.”

Another Akel MP Marina Nicolaou also asked why the government “has not uttered a word” or even acknowledged, as she said, the occupation of Israel in Palestine.

Kombos stressed that Cyprus’ position is that Israel’s right for self-defence must be carried out within the framework of international humanitarian law.

The foreign minister also hit back saying he had visited the Ramallah twice, and was the first foreign minister to go to the Palestinian city after Hamas’ attack on October 7.

During his visit, Kombos said he met with high-level Palestinian officials, in which not even Ramallah exerted the same degree of criticism towards Nicosia that Akel was currently doing, he stressed.

He also added that the government did not stick to platitudes and rhetoric but instead “is practically trying to do something for the population of Gaza.

“We are the only EU state which is making a very concrete, structured, coherent effort in consultation with the Palestinians, conveying their concerns, proposals, suggestions and reflections.” Kombos noted that that Nicosia is in regular contact with Palestinians over the issue, without delving into specifics.

Earlier this month, the top EU official for crisis management said there were practical issues with the logistics of creating a sea route, or humanitarian aid corridor to Gaza, as proposed by Cyprus.

During the committee session, Kombos told MPs that Israel is concerned over security issues surrounding the humanitarian corridor, in which Cyprus has assured that the corridor will not be used to bring a single Palestinian from Gaza to Cyprus.

He added Israel has given the idea a political approval and creating working groups to discuss all aspects of the corridor. Kombos added Cyprus is building on its relationship with trust with Israel, which goes back years.

The minister highlighted that during his recent visit to Israel he met with seven families of hostages kidnapped by Hamas and that there could be no other approach than the position that the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages is required.

He said that what was done on 7 October by Hamas was an act of terrorism for which there can be no excuse.

Referring to the Estia plan, Kobos said that it remains active in case further evacuation is needed either by Israel or other countries in the region if the crisis continues.

He specified that 33 countries are currently represented in the Zenon Center, preparing in case evacuations from neighboring countries needs to begin.

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