A boat aiming to break Israel's maritime blockade on Gaza at sea, May 29, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
If the emerging cease-fire arrangement with Hamas includes some kind of port or shipping corridor from Cyprus to Gaza, as some reports have indicated, no one has yet cued in the Cypriots.
Cypriot officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that Nicosia has not yet had a “substantial bilateral dialogue” with Israel on the matter, and that there has been no flurry of activity in recent days moving this proposal forward.
"We are aware of this proposal, and we are aware that the Israeli side is thinking of perhaps going forward and exploring the idea, but we have not yet had a substantial bilateral dialogue,” one official said.
The official added that this was not to say that such a dialogue will not take place, but that it is “critical we have the stakeholders on board.”
According to the official, the stakeholders include Israel, “the legitimate Palestinian faction that represents the Palestinians” – a reference to the Palestinian Authority – the Egyptians and the UN.
The official said that Cyprus, reflecting the common EU position, does not consider Hamas a “stakeholder,” and that if there is a Palestinian position on the port, “we assume we have a collective Palestinian position.”
Cyprus’s Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulidis is scheduled to arrive for talks in Jerusalem on September 13, but he will be joined by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias for trilateral discussions that are not expected to focus on Gaza.
The idea of using a section of a port or a pier in Cyprus to service Gaza was raised in late June when Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman went there for high-level meetings.
Following those meetings, Cyprus government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said this is an “old issue which is now being re-discussed.”
“There will be contacts between the government and all interested parties in the region and, possibly, a decision will be taken,” Prodromou said. “At the moment no decision has been taken. The request is being examined, it hasn’t been rejected.”
The idea dates back to 2011, when it was first proposed as part of an EU package to provide humanitarian assistance to Gaza.
The Cypriot official said Nicosia does not have a final position on the matter, but that certain conditions would need to be met, such as buy-in from all the “stakeholders, and some sort of third-party umbrella that would legitimize the whole effort.”
One possibility for this type of “legitimization” would be for the notion to get endorsed by the UN Security Council.
“It is still early in the day, we have to see what all stakeholders are saying about this,” the official said.
When asked whether Cyprus would ever agree to Israeli monitoring of what is transported into or from the port, the official said that the general international principle is that countries do not cede monitoring rights on their own territory to third countries, but if this was part of an international effort, then a “mechanism” could be developed to address the issue.
The official said Cyprus’s willingness to be involved in the Gaza situation “shows our credible role in the region.” The official said that Nicosia’s agreement on this matter would not be part of an exchange or quid pro quo with Israel on other bilateral issues.
Cyprus and Israel have been in talks for years about a possible natural gas pipeline to Europe that would run from Israel’s offshore natural gas fields through Cyprus and Greece and into Italy.
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