Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos, announced on Monday that representatives from over 40 countries will meet in Cyprus on March 21 to discuss the operational coordination of the next steps regarding the aid corridor to the Gaza Strip.

Entering a Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, Kombos said this meeting in Cyprus will focus on scaling up capacity at the stages of departure, transport, and distribution of the aid, as well as the establishment of a specialised fund to support the project in the long term.

Kombos added that small technical issues that arose during the departure of the first shipment have been considered and said that the creation of a temporary jetty by the US is proceeding and could be ready earlier than initially discussed.

He also said that originally Cyprus worked alone on the proposal, but that what is important now is that it is being implemented.

Upon arriving to the FAC, Kombos said that he would be updating the council as to the progress regarding the maritime corridor and noted that “the first shipment of 200 tons has arrived in Gaza and has been safely distributed”.

“A second, larger shipment is ready to depart as we speak. We now have therefore proof of concept, and the aim is to continue, in a systematic and scaled up way, the flow of shipments to Gaza” he added, pointing out that “what happened is that Israel has lifted the naval blockade of Gaza exclusively for their Amalthea plan”.

Noting that the aim is to continue “with the logistical upgrade of the whole structure”, Kombos said that “to this end we continue to see the usefulness of the land and air crossings and we insist that this is a complementary and additive effort”.

He also thanked Egypt and Jordan “for all the work they have been doing all this time” and added that the Cypriot initiative is complementary to those efforts. He also pointed out that Cyprus “has been working on this for a long time and the support by the United States and the UAE has been instrumental” and added that Cyprus is extremely pleased that there is now a “growing international humanitarian coalition”.

Regarding the next steps, he said that the first thing needed is to scale up the capacity in terms of the departure point, the means of transport and the distribution network, as well as “the establishment of a fund for the financing of the project” and “the successful and effective integration of interested parties”.

“To this end, there is a meeting scheduled on the 21st of March in Cyprus with the participation of more than 40 countries, exactly in order to see operationally how we can proceed”.

He further explained that the meeting on March 21 concerns “how we can scale up operational capacity also in terms of how we can have additional means of transport and also in terms of distribution network”. Regarding the fund, he said that the participants will discuss “the modalities in relation to that, the ring fencing of the fund, because this is going to be a project that is for the long run, and it needs to be financed properly in a secure way, with accountability through which the countries that want to participate will be able to submit their pledges”.

Commenting on the role that the EU will have in this meeting, he said that the EU is already on the ground with a team from DG ECHO. “They have been very supportive, especially the President of the European Commission, and we are using their expertise and their logistical capacity both on the ground and in terms of the planning” he said.

“We have established a maritime corridor for Gaza, which is a lifeline for the people in Gaza. And to this end, we’ll continue to work with our partners” Kombos added.