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HomeWorldEU Commission chief hopes aid route from Cyprus to Gaza opens Sunday

EU Commission chief hopes aid route from Cyprus to Gaza opens Sunday


President of the European Commission, Ursula von Der Leyen, right, and Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides shake hands after a press conference at the Joint Search and Rescue Coordination center in Larnaca, Cyprus, on Friday March 8, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AP

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen expressed hopes Friday that a humanitarian aid corridor from Cyprus to Gaza will open this weekend, amid fears of famine in the war-torn Palestinian territory.

“We are very close to opening this corridor, hopefully this Sunday,” Ms. von der Leyen said following a visit to the Cypriot port of Larnaca with Cyprus’s President Nikos Christodoulides.

Her announcement came after U.S. President Joe Biden, in his State of the Union address on Thursday, said the U.S. military would establish a temporary port off Gaza’s coast to bring in aid.

Senior U.S. administration officials said the effort announced by Biden builds upon the maritime aid corridor proposed by Cyprus — the closest European Union member to Gaza.

Ms. Von der Leyen described the situation in Gaza as “dire… and we face a humanitarian catastrophe”.

She said “an initial pilot operation” would be launched on Friday, and the United Arab Emirates had helped activate the corridor “by securing the first of many shipments of goods to the people of Gaza”.

The European Commission issued a joint statement with Cyprus, the UAE, United States and United Kingdom “endorsing the activation” of the maritime aid corridor to Gaza.

“The delivery of humanitarian assistance directly to Gaza by sea will be complex, and our nations will continue to assess and adjust our efforts to ensure we deliver aid as effectively as possible,” the statement said.

“This maritime corridor can — and must — be part of a sustained effort to increase the flow of humanitarian aid and commercial commodities into Gaza through all possible routes.”

The statement added that Cyprus “will soon convene senior officials to discuss how we can accelerate this maritime channel”.

Israel welcomes opening

Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron, in a post on social media platform X, said his country, the United States and partners “will open a maritime corridor to deliver aid directly to Gaza”.

But he added: “We continue to urge Israel to allow more trucks into Gaza as the fastest way to get aid to those who need it.”

Mr. Christodoulides said the sea corridor aimed to “scale up” aid by complementing other routes and airdrops.

A senior United States administration official said the Cyprus initiative “provides a platform at the port of Larnaca for the transloading of assistance and screening by Israeli officials of Gaza-bound goods”.

A ship could take roughly 10 hours to reach Gaza from Larnaca, about 370 kilometres 370 (230 miles) away.

Israel welcomed the planned opening of the Cyprus-Gaza maritime corridor.

“The Cypriot initiative will allow the increase of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, after a security check according to Israeli standards,” foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said on X.



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