The Palestinian embassy in Cyprus said on Monday it was stunned and disappointed by the Cypriot foreign ministry, which described the genocide charges Israel is facing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as “inaccurate”.
In a statement, Palestine’s ambassador Abdallah Attari said he had heard the comments made by foreign ministry spokesman Theodoros Gotsis with “great disappointment.”
Gotsis had been speaking to Radio Astra on Saturday when he was asked to comment on Cyprus’ stance over the war waged in Gaza.
He refuted that Cyprus had “leaned towards Israel.”
“I don’t think the use of the word genocide is accurate…There is a military conflict carried out in response to an attack,” Gotsis said.
“Unfortunately, there is collateral damage just like in any conflict. There is a humanitarian crisis and we were one of the first states that tried to resolve the humanitarian crisis. Now the use of the term genocide…We know what a genocide is.”
Responding to Gotsis’ statements, Attari said: “We were stunned when the 24,000 dead Palestinians, the 60,000 injured, the countless missing under the rubble, and the over 2 million Palestinians displaced without a safe shelter were reported as ‘collateral casualties’.”
He added “3.5 per cent of the Palestinian population in Gaza are dead, injured or missing. The majority of them are children. So what is the casualty threshold to distinguish the words ‘collateral loss’ and ‘genocide’?”
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Attari expressed his surprise that Cyprus had taken a stance over Israel’s genocide charges at the International Court of Justice, put forth by South Africa, while the case was still ongoing.
“It is with great disappointment that we hear statements that prejudge the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague and acquit Israel of the charge of genocide against the Palestinian people.”
Attari’s statement added that small countries and wronged peoples look to the ICJ “as the last refuge for their protection from aggression, the illegal invasion and occupation of their homeland, the mass displacement of their civilian population and the illegal settlement of their occupied territories.”
Later on Monday, Gotsis appeared to smooth over his initial statements, telling the Cyprus News Agency that “Cyprus does not prejudge or seek to interpret in advance the outcome of the legal aspects of such war conflicts, which are brought before the competent international judicial bodies.”
The verdict on such cases, he said, “lies certainly in the exclusive competence of the International Court of Justice in The Hague”.
“As a matter of principle, Cyprus evaluates each case according to its particular circumstances and chooses sparingly any participation in cases based on criteria of vital national interest,” he said.
“Any other interpretation is inconsistent with this clear position, which is our consistent policy.”
South Africa filed the lawsuit at the end of December, accusing Israel of genocide in its war on Gaza and seeking a halt to the military assault that has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians, nearly 10,000 of them children.
Gotsis also underscored in his initial interview that Cyprus was completely opposed to the displacement of any Palestinian from Gaza.