Cypriot President seeks Egyptian and Jordanian help on Gaza maritime aid corridor plan

Egyptian leader El Sisi says Cairo is prepared to co-ordinate all aid to Palestinian enclave

President of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides at the Elysee Presidential Palace, in Paris, on November 9, 2023. AFP
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Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides travelled to Egypt and Jordan on Tuesday to seek support for the revival of a proposed maritime aid corridor between the Eastern Mediterranean island and Gaza.

Mr Christodoulides met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Cairo and was expected to fly to Amman to meet Jordan's King Abdullah II.

Mr El Sisi's office said the two leaders reviewed the escalation in Gaza and Cairo's efforts to achieve a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The statement made no mention of the Cypriot aid proposal.

“Egypt is prepared to receive and co-ordinate all international aid for the Gaza Strip,” Mr El Sisi told Mr Christodoulides.

Egypt maintains working relations with Hamas and has connections with its armed wing, the Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades, while Jordan borders the occupied West Bank. In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Jordan followed 15 years later.

Ties between Cyprus and the two Arab countries strengthened over the past few years, as Cyprus sought their support in maritime disputes with Turkey.

In Amman, King Abdullah said after meeting Mr Christodoulides that Israel should be condemned worldwide for attempting to create coercive conditions that could displace the Palestinians in Gaza.

“The king renewed his rejection of forcible displacement of Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip or outside it,” the official Jordanian news agency reported.

He repeated his calls for an immediate ceasefire and warned that Israel's bombing of Gaza was leading to a “dangerous deterioration” in the situation.

After meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Larnaca airport last month, Mr Christodoulides said the US viewed the Cypriot aid corridor proposal as “important”.

“Everyone supports this initiative, the European Union, the United States,” he said in November. “When we say that we’re a bridge to the region, we’re showing this in practice. It’s every important for our country.”

Mr Christodoulides said his government was working with neighbouring authorities, including Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, as well as the US, France, the EU and the UN, to put the initiative in place.

There has yet to be any formal Israeli acceptance.

Cyprus government spokesman Constantinos Letymbiotis said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “saw the initiative in a positive light”, after a telephone call with Mr Christodoulides in November.

Cyprus was talking to fellow EU member countries and Arab states to sketch out the details of its plan to ferry aid from its main port of Limassol to Gaza once conditions on the ground allowed it, he said.

The proposal seeks to address Gaza’s water, electricity and fuel supply needs. Ships would be vetted at the point of departure at Limassol port to ensure that nothing transported could be used as a weapon by Hamas.

Cypriot officials presented the plan to other EU countries in November at an international donor conference for Gaza in Paris, which was attended by Egypt and Jordan.

Hamas is on EU and US lists of terrorist organisations.

The UN said more than 1.5 million Palestinians had been displaced in Gaza by the Israeli bombing campaign launched after October 7, when Hamas killed about 1,200 people in a surprise attack on southern Israel.

With Palestinian sources putting the death toll in Gaza from the war at more than 16,000, the Israeli army said on Tuesday that it was taking “aggressive action” in the southern sector of the enclave.

Civilians are no longer able to use Salah Al Din road, a key route for evacuation, as the army advances in the north and east of Khan Younis.

“The road constitutes a battlefield, so it is extremely dangerous to go there,” Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee said on social media platform X.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: December 05, 2023, 4:06 PM