Cyprus is trying to play the role of a mediator, making it clear to all parties involved that a further escalation in the region is not in the interest of any country and that this crisis cannot be settled by military means, President Nikos Christodoulides said on the situation in the Middle East.

In an interview with the German Network of Journalists (RND), President Christodoulides expressed hope that the conflict in the Middle East will not escalate and stressed that Cyprus, which is the EU member-state with the closest proximity to the region, maintains excellent relations with all parties involved.

Regarding the use of two British military bases in Cyprus, he stated that there is no prior information that the British will use them, and clarified that Cyprus is not involved in any way in military actions.

President Christodoulides also announced that the maritime corridor from Cyprus for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza “can be restarted very soon”, as the temporary port off Gaza, which is a US military construction, will be made available.

Christodoulides further said he is not satisfied with the EU’s engagement on the Middle East issue so far, stressing that the Union should play a much more important role in both the de-escalation of the crisis and the negotiations for the two-state solution.

He pointed out that the EU has been very focused on Ukraine, something which he fully supports, however if it wants to play a leading role in geopolitical matters, it should be able to manage two or three crises simultaneously.

The crisis in the Middle East has implications for the security of Europe, but also in the field of migration, the President of the Republic noted, while he welcomed the fact that on 2 May he will visit Lebanon together with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, where they will announce – on Cyprus’ initiative – a specific package of EU economic measures, including support for Lebanese institutions, for example the Lebanese armed forces, which are a factor of stability.

“It is a long-term plan, and Lebanon and the EU must keep their commitments for it to succeed,” Christodoulides stressed, explaining that the aim of the agreement is for the EU to assist Lebanon in managing migration, so that no more migrants come to Cyprus.

“It’s a really important issue because in the last two or three months Syrians have been arriving almost daily from Lebanon to Cyprus. But we are an island country and (these) people remain in Cyprus”, the President of the Republic noted, saying that currently 7% of the population of Cyprus are immigrants.

Asked whether Cyprus has reached its limits in terms of refugee reception, President Christodoulides replied: “Enough is enough. We are not in a position to accept any more Syrian refugees. We are at our limits and we can no longer manage this flow of refugees. That’s why I asked the EU for help and decided to suspend the processing of new asylum applications. For us it is a matter of national security. We are no longer in a position to meet this challenge”.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Cyprus’s accession to the EU, he described the accession as the most important positive development since the founding of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960 and underlined that Cyprus would not have been able to cope with various challenges, such as the coronavirus pandemic and the need to supply vaccines or the economic crisis, if it were not a member of the EU.

He also noted that he has a close relationship with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whom he thanks for his support for Nicosia’s efforts to resume negotiations aiming to solve the Cyprus issue.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar of Columbia as his personal envoy for Cyprus, to assume a Good Offices role on his behalf and search for common ground on the way forward in the Cyprus issue. 

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