CNA: Cyprus prepares to receive more than 100,000 evacuees if needed

Cyprus earnestly prepares for all scenarios as regards the evacuation of citizens of various nationalities – from EU and third countries – which are currently in Israel, Lebanon and the broader region, after the conflict that broke out in the Middle East, with the number of people from various states who may need to be evacuated reaching more than 100,000, based on the information which the Cypriot authorities have.

Diplomatic sources have said that in such a case a major operation will need to take place, maybe of the same extent or bigger than that of 2006, which was carried out due to the war in Lebanon, underlining at the same time that Cyprus will be used as a transit point for these people, who will not stay on the island for an extended period of time.

Both in the Coordinating Center “Zenon” in Larnaka and in the “Andreas Papandreou” airbase in Pafos there are groups from 19 states which are cooperating with the Cypriot authorities to prepare to address even the worst case scenario, that is the evacuation of a very big number of citizens, even though it is not certain that this will be required.

Up until now since October 7 a total of 1,188 people of 33 nationalities have arrived to Cyprus from Israel, in the framework of the “Estia” plan, on 15 flights and two ships to be hosted here before leaving for their countries. Approximately 90% of these people have already left Cyprus, while the others are still here. They are either EU citizens, or have relatives here or have their own places to stay. During recent days the number of citizens who have arrived has fallen dramatically.

Meanwhile Cyprus is conveying messages to the parties engaged in the crisis about the need to have a de-escalation, to have a continuous flow of humanitarian help to Gaza and to establish a political horison, step by step, that will lead to dialogue with a view to reaching a settlement on the basis of a two state solution, as determined by the UN Security Council.

To this end contacts are taking place with those engaged and Cyprus participates in the deliberations underway at multilateral, EU and bilateral level.

In this framework Nicosia’s proposal to set up a humanitarian corridor from Cyprus to Gaza is being discussed. Nicosia notes that the way this issue will proceed depends to a great extent on Israel, which in a first reaction has said that the issue can be discussed.

The effort is taking place in a coordinated way and in cooperation with countries which are friendly to Cyprus and the issue will be discussed during a meeting that Foreign Minister, Constantinos Kombos will pay on Sunday to Jordan. Kombos also discussed about the current situation with his Jordanian counterpart during a telephone conversation they had on Thursday evening.

Nicosia’s effort focuses on highlighting the fact that provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza needs to be maintained and reinforced, and that the Republic of Cyprus can play a role in this, since it offers the means and geographical position, while submitting the proposal for a humanitarian corridor.

A source said that this corridor offers an additional alternative route to the one in Egypt, adding that the whole venture requires a broad support and involvement of international organisations such as the UN, while once there is a conclusion on the establishment of the corridor certain issues need to be examined such as the ways in which the aid will be dispatched.

What we are interested in is for the humanitarian aid to be made available where it is needed, the source added.

As regards the refugee flows, the source said that this is a different issue, and that any arrivals of refugees will take place via the sea, outside the framework of the evacuation mechanism, adding that a big number of refugees is now in Lebanon.

(Cyprus News Agency)