The humanitarian maritime corridor ‘Amalthea’ from Cyprus to Gaza will commence operations with a pilot mission on Friday, announced President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen from Larnaca.

Speaking at the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, where she inspected the preparations for the corridor with President Nikos Christodoulides, von der Leyen announced that the first pilot ship carrying aid would depart on Friday. She mentioned that the official launch is expected to take place on Sunday.

“I am extremely grateful to you Mr President, dear Nikos, and to the people of Cyprus for establishing the Amalthea initiative,” she said.

She also thanked the UAE for their work in helping to activate the maritime corridor.

“The aid corridor can make a real difference in the life of the Palestinian people,” she said.

Additionally, she said that the EU would consider conducting airdrops, subject to partner approval, to deliver humanitarian aid.

She also made reference to the Houthi attacks in the red sea, and the programme ‘Aspides’ of the EU, which Cyprus loaned two naval officers for.

The programme is an EU naval force mission that has been deployed to the Red Sea.

On ‘Amalthea’, she said Cyprus will play a central role, as the “people of Cyprus know about suffering and loss”.

Turning to the Cyprus problem, she assured that the EU will support the president in his initiative to restart talks.

Christodoulides also expressed gratitude to von der Leyen for her visit to Cyprus.

“Cyprus as Europe’s most south-eastern corner stands as the lighthouse of the European Union in this region,” he said.

He added that the Middle East is also Europe’s neighbourhood “where Europe’s role and leadership are required”.

Later in the day, a joint statement was released by the partners of the ‘Amalthea’ initiative, including representatives from the EU Commission, Cyprus, the UAE, the US, and the UK.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire, with innocent Palestinian families and children desperate for basic necessities. That is why today, the European Commission, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the Republic of Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States announce our intent to open a maritime corridor to deliver much-needed additional amounts of humanitarian assistance by sea,” the statement said.

The statement highlights the integral role of Cyprus’ leadership in the entire initiative.

“Together, our nations intend to build on this model to deliver significant additional aid by sea, working in coordination with UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag — who is charged with facilitating, coordinating, monitoring, and verifying the flow of aid into Gaza under UN Security Council Resolution 2720.”

The statement mentions that the UAE’s efforts to mobilise support will lead to the initial shipment.

Von der Leyen, Larnaca, Christodoulides, aid corridor, humanitarian aid

President of the European Commission – Inspection at Larnaca Port

“The delivery of humanitarian assistance directly to Gaza by sea will be complex, and our nations will continue to assess and adjust our efforts to ensure we deliver aid as effectively as possible,” the statement said.

This maritime corridor can – and must – be part of a sustained effort to increase the flow of humanitarian aid and commercial commodities into Gaza through all available routes.

“We will continue to work with Israel to expand deliveries by land, insisting that it facilitate more routes and open additional crossings to get more aid to more people. We affirm that protecting civilian lives is a key element of international humanitarian law that must be respected. And together, we must all do more to ensure aid gets to people who desperately need it,” they said.

Earlier, von der Leyen and Christodoulides met following an announcement overnight that the US military will build a temporary port on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast to receive humanitarian aid by sea.

President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union speech that the operation will initially be based in Cyprus.

CyBC’s correspondent in Washington DC said the whole US effort is based on Cyprus’ Amalthea initiative to use the port of Larnaca to get aid to Gaza.

The White House official said that aid would be loaded in Larnaca after being vetted by Israeli officials as there is strong concern from Tel Aviv that weapons or other military equipment that could be used by Hamas might be channelled.

Aid would then be transferred by boat to the floating platform to be built by the US military on a Gaza coast.

The initial aid, the US official added, will be sent through Cyprus with the help of the US military and a coalition of partners and allies and are expected to last several weeks.

Ahead of statements, Christodoulides and von der Leyen visited the Larnaca port and the facilities of the Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) to inspect the existing infrastructure for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

On Thursday evening, President Christodoulides hosted a dinner for von der Leyen at the Presidential Palace.

Speaking earlier, Government Spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said that both the president and von der Leyen were in constant contact with the United States, Israel, the Palestinian authority and international organisations for the implementation of this project.

Communication with America was also taking place during last night’s dinner at the presidential palace, the spokesman said regarding von der Leyen’s arrival on Thursday evening.

A source told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that the work to create the aid corridor is at an advanced stage.

Meanwhile, international non-governmental organisation (NGO) World Central Kitchen, which supplies food to areas in crisis, announced on social media that they are in Cyprus to take part in attempts to open the corridor.

aid, humanitarian corridor, Palestine, Gaza, World Central Kitchen

NGO World Central Kitchen announced on social media that they are in Cyprus to take part in attempts to open the corridor

They added that they are cooperating with the United Arab Emirates, and the NGO Open Arms, as well as the international community to ensure food reaches Palestinians in need.

According to World Central Kitchen, their NGO members and the other NGO arrived in Cyprus a few weeks ago.

Later CyBC reported, that a Spanish boat operated by Open Arms would be the first to leave the port in Larnaca with aid from World Central Kitchen for Gaza.