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14-02-2024 17:27

Press remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Constantinos Kombos, following his meeting with the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Dr Riad Malki

Dear Minister,

Dear Riad,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to Cyprus.

This is the fifth time we are meeting in the last six months. The last time that we met was three weeks ago in Brussels.

Today’s bilateral meeting focused on the developments in the Middle East. We have been briefed by His Excellency as regards the current situation.

Before going to that, I would like to make a point about part of the discussions which was on the developments regarding the Cyprus Problem and the arrival of the Personal Envoy of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General. I would like to publicly once again express our intention to work closely together with the Personal Envoy in order to break the deadlock and reach a stage where we are back to substantive negotiations for a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, as provided in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

As I have mentioned, it is understandable that our discussions were dominated by the developments in the Middle East.

We agree that the unfolding situation in our region deteriorates daily, and that we are experiencing not just another chapter of the long-standing conflict. Instead, we are witnessing a transformative series of events that have regional but also global implications.

Four points in order to clarify what comprises the consistent approach of the Republic of Cyprus:

Firstly, all civilians, non-combatants, and civilian infrastructures must be fully protected and respected in line with international law, including international humanitarian law.

This is the underlying, defining and fundamental principle governing all conflicts. There is no room for derogation on this.

Accordingly, and given the gravity of the situation on the ground, we echo the multiple calls for restraint and upholding the sanctity of life. Any move in Rafah, which hosts 1.4 million people, most of them displaced, will have catastrophic consequences that would be irreversible.

Secondly, Cyprus has consistently said that the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages is instrumental to ending this conflict. We hope that the intensive negotiations towards this end will soon be successful.

It is also important to remember that Hamas, a terrorist group, does not represent the Palestinian people. Their acts on October the 7th are condemned without reservation and are not in any way to be associated with the Palestinian cause for self-determination.

Thirdly, we are deeply concerned by the spread of the conflict to other areas, which could lead to a regional spillover with unprecedented consequences.

We condemn the continued settler violence in the West Bank, which undermines the prospects of a viable diplomatic way out of the crisis.

Fourthly, the only sustained way forward is the revival of the Middle East Peace Process and the reemergence of the political horizon, on the basis of the two-state solution, in line with the UN Security Council resolutions.

In this context, we need to maximise our outreach and efforts in order to allow the implementation of this very framework.

It is also recalled that Cyprus, along with the majority of European Union (EU) member states, has voted for the General Assembly resolution which called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

Furthermore, we also talked in-depth about the importance of getting more humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza.

In this context, it is recalled that Cyprus offered a financial contribution of 1.1 million euros and also donated 10 tonnes of medical aid to the Gaza Strip in the past few weeks, and more is under way in 2024.

We agree that the escalating humanitarian needs, call for a scaled up, unhindered flow of aid.

We fully support the Security Council mandate of the UN Special Coordinator Ms Sigrid Kaag, who was in Cyprus last week. We will continue to work closely with her.

We are committed to doing our part to increase humanitarian assistance. In this context, we are in close cooperation and will continue to talk with the Palestinian side in order to make possible the increase of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

It is important to once again state the obvious: Cyprus rejects, in the most absolute terms, the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.

Dear Riad, I would like to thank you again for the productive exchange and I extend a very warm welcome to you in Cyprus.