Gaza aid corridor from Cyprus could start this weekend, says EU president

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Gaza aid corridor from Cyprus could start this weekend, says EU president

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen (right) and Cyprus' President Nikos Christodoulides shake hands during a press conference at JRCC (Joint search and rescue coordination centre) in Larnaca, Cyprus March 8, 2024. — AFP pic

LARNACA (Cyprus), March 8 — A sea corridor to take desperately needed aid from Cyprus to besieged Palestinians in Gaza could start this weekend, the European Union said today.

US President Joe Biden said yesterday that a temporary port would be built in Gaza to facilitate a flow of aid by sea, initially from Cyprus.

“We are now very close to opening this corridor, hopefully this Saturday-Sunday, and I’m very glad to see an initial pilot operation will be launched today,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in the Cypriot port town of Larnaca, alongside Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides.

A shipment of food was due to be dispatched by the charity World Central Kitchen from Cyprus today, with support from the United Arab Emirates.

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The quantities of aid envisaged and the distribution logistics in Gaza were not immediately clear. Gaza has been under an Israeli naval blockade since 2007, when the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas seized control.

Cyprus is the closest EU member state to Gaza, some 370km away. It has lobbied for months to launch the corridor, but faced challenges from the lack of port infrastructure in Gaza to security issues.

“The maritime corridor can make a real difference ... but, in parallel, our efforts to provide assistance to Palestinians through all possible routes of course will continue,” Von der Leyen said.

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Aid parcels are airdropped over the northern Gaza Strip on March 8, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. — AFP pic

Aid parcels are airdropped over the northern Gaza Strip on March 8, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. — AFP pic

The United Nations has said at least 576,000 people in Gaza — one quarter of its population — are on the brink of famine.

EU member states, the UAE, the United States and other partners are working together on the project, Von der Leyen said, singling out Christodoulides and UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for their commitment.

“As the EU member at the heart of the region, Cyprus bears a moral duty to do its utmost ... leveraging its role and excellent relations with all countries in the region,” Christodoulides said.

Under the arrangement, cargo would undergo security inspections on Cyprus, by a team including Israeli officials.

Cyprus tested an on-island screening mechanism in January, when British and Cypriot aid for Gaza was dispatched to Egypt. — Reuters

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