Cyprus and Israel are close to reaching an agreement to open a humanitarian aid corridor from the Mediterranean island to war-torn Gaza, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said Friday.
Under the plan put forward by Nicosia, aid would be collected, inspected and stored in Cyprus and then sent to the Gaza Strip on ships checked daily by a joint committee including Israel.
The vessels would be accompanied by warships to a designated spot identified on the coast of Gaza, from where it would be sent to a safe, neutral area.
“We are in contact with Israel to implement some final arrangements,” Christodoulides told reporters, adding the details were also being discussed with the United Nations.
The Cypriot proposal aims to bolster humanitarian relief provided to the Gaza Strip by importing large volumes on ships rather than the limited deliveries of trucks through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
The United Nations warned on Friday that aid deliveries to Gaza had been halted due to a lack of fuel and a near-total communications blackout.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, in response to the October 7 cross-border attacks that Israeli officials say killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
Its retaliatory aerial bombing and ground offensive has killed 11,500 people, including thousands of children, according to the besieged Palestinian territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.
Cyprus says its proposal for a Gaza aid corridor enhances the role of the European Union as it is the bloc’s nearest member state to the Middle East.
“The initiative sends a message (that) we want action, not just words, to show that we are a pillar of security and stability in the region,” said Christodoulides.
But the Cypriot president, who contacted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday, gave no time frame for when the corridor could be up and running.
“What matters is that specific discussions on the initiative of the Republic of Cyprus -– an initiative acknowledged by the international community –- started on technical details,” he said.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos visited Tel Aviv on Thursday to discuss the initiative.
“The security of the cargo is intertwined with the security of Israel, without whose consent there can be no corridor,” he told reporters on Friday.
Supplies of water, electricity, fuel and food were cut off to the impoverished and densely populated territory in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attacks.