The government, even though it has issued a measured and calm response, cannot fail to have been rattled by the threat from Hassan Nasrallah to make Cyprus “part of the war” if the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah escalates in Lebanon.

Whether it was a strategic gamble on Nasrallah’s part, or a genuine possibility is hard to say.

The Hezbollah leader did not specifically refer to the British sovereign bases, which have often been used in operations in the Middle East, most recently against the Houthis in Yemen. 

He seemed to be referring to the security and military cooperation between the Cyprus government and Israel, which has been ramped up further since the opening of the humanitarian aid corridor to Gaza from Larnaca.

It wasn’t the first time recently that Cyprus appeared on Nasrallah’s radar. Last month, he called on Lebanon to “open the sea” so that Syrian migrants could make their way to Cyprus if they wished to go to the EU.

Nasrallah may not necessarily believe that Cyprus would ever allow Israel to attack Lebanon through the island’s ports and airports. The notion is inconceivable.  Perhaps it was said as a means to pressure Europe. Cyprus is the closest member state to Lebanon geographically.

Constantinos Filis, director of the Institute of Global Affairs in Athens, told Middle East Eye that Nasrallah sees Cyprus as the weakest link in the regional balance of power “because it has no real military and is under pressure from Turkey”.

Michael Harari, Israel’s former ambassador to Cyprus, told the outlet: “Throwing Cyprus into the mix means Nasrallah is under pressure and believes Israel may go ahead with an attack. “It’s a clever move because he knows Cyprus will be extremely worried and Greece will create some pressure on Israel about an attack on Lebanon.”

Nasrallah can’t not be aware that Cyprus hosted thousands of Lebanese refugees during the 70s and 80s, many of whom made their home here. It also temporarily harboured thousands more during Israel’s last major clash with Hezbollah within Lebanon in 2006.

Nicosia and Beirut have remained close diplomatically despite the island forging stronger ties with Israel over the past decade and despite some recent difficulties over the migrant crisis.

On Thursday Lebanese Foreign Minister Dr Abdullah Bouhabib, contacted his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos and expressed Lebanon’s continued reliance on the positive role played by Cyprus in supporting stability in the region.

Kombos confirmed the president’s statement that Cyprus aims to be part of the solution and not part of the problem in the region. He repeated that Cyprus had no intention of getting involved in any way in the ongoing war in the region.

So, while Nasrallah’s threat should not be dismissed lightly, we can only hope that cooler heads prevail. Either way, the mere fact that this threat – even if it was a strategic move – is out there, could have longer lasting impacts on the island’s economy, especially tourism, which is always vulnerable to conflicts in the region. This damage may already have been done.