Cyprus mulls Israeli request of port for Gaza

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, left, Cypriot Defense Minister Savvas Angelides, center, and Greek Defense Mininister Panos Kammenos during trilateral talks in Larnaca, Cyprus, where Avigdor Lieberman suggested that Cyprus might be interested in building an Israeli-monitored port facility for the delivery of goods to the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo)
Updated 26 June 2018
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Cyprus mulls Israeli request of port for Gaza

  • Under the plan, a special pier would be constructed for cargo ships carrying goods bound for Gaza.
  • Israel controls two land crossings into Gaza and Egypt controls a third, with goods arriving by ship traveling by truck from Israeli ports to the Strip.

NICOSIA: Cyprus said Tuesday it is examining an Israeli request to build a port facility on the island for the delivery of goods to Palestinians of the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“There is no agreement on this issue” but “there is a relevant request that is under consideration,” deputy government spokeswoman Klelia Vassiliou told reporters.
According to Israeli media, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the proposal for the Palestinian territory during a visit last week to the eastern Mediterranean island.
Under the plan, a special pier would be constructed for cargo ships carrying goods bound for Gaza, around 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Cyprus.
“They would be checked with the help of an Israeli monitoring mechanism to ensure that no weapons were being smuggled” into Gaza, controlled by Hamas, the Jerusalem Post newspaper said.
It said the cargo would then likely be sent to Gaza directly by ferry since the enclave lacks a port large enough for the docking of cargo ships.
Lieberman’s office commented on the proposal on Tuesday.
“The defense minister and security establishment, along with elements in the international community, are leading many initiatives aimed at changing the reality in the Gaza Strip,” a spokesman for his office told AFP.
“Any idea presented to improve the humanitarian situation would be conditioned on solving the issue of the captives (Israelis held in Gaza) and MIAs,” or soldiers gone missing there since 2014.
“Beyond that we can’t provide details.”
Israel controls two land crossings into Gaza and Egypt controls a third.
The Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border is often closed, and it is not designed for the passage of cargo as most commercial and humanitarian goods enter Gaza through the Kerem Shalom post with Israel.
Goods that arrive by ship travel by truck from Israeli ports to the Strip.
The international community has heavily criticized the restrictions, including security curbs that Israel has imposed on Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.


UN envoy sees troop withdrawal in Yemen’s Hodeidah within weeks

Updated 8 min 2 sec ago
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UN envoy sees troop withdrawal in Yemen’s Hodeidah within weeks

  • The UN has struggled to implement a pact agreed at talks last December in Sweden, the first major breakthrough in peace efforts to end the war
  • Griffiths said he had received on Sunday the formal acceptance of the legitimate government and the Houthis to implement a first phase of troop redeployments

DUBAI: Yemen’s warring parties could start withdrawing forces from the main port city of Hodeidah within weeks, a move needed to pave the way for political negotiations to end the four-year war, the UN special envoy said on Thursday.
Martin Griffiths said he had received on Sunday the formal acceptance of the legitimate government and the Iran-backed Houthi group to implement a first phase of troop redeployments, while discussions were still underway for the second phase.
The United Nations has struggled to implement a pact agreed at talks last December in Sweden, the first major breakthrough in peace efforts to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
“The two parties agreed formally to the concept of operations for phase one. What we are doing now is ... moving on as planned from there to agree on phase two,” Griffiths told Reuters in a telephone interview without elaborating, adding that talks would “intensify” in coming days.
“So we don’t have an exact date at the moment for the beginning of this physical redeployment,” he said. “It’s got to be weeks ... hopefully few weeks.”
Sources have told Reuters the first phase would see the Houthis leave the city’s ports and pro-government forces leave some areas on the city’s outskirts. In the second phase, both sides would pull troops to 18 km from the city and heavy weapons 30 km away.
The Hodeidah deal was a trust building step aimed at averting a full-scale assault on Hodeidah by the Arab coalition trying to restore the legitimate government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and paving the way for political talks to set up a transitional government.
Danish general Michael Lollesgaard, head of the UN observer team in Hodeidah, chairs a Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) tasked with hammering out details not spelled out in the pact.
A cease-fire in Houthi-held Hodeidah has largely held but violence has escalated elsewhere in the country. The troop withdrawal was due to have been completed by Jan. 7 but stalled over disagreement on who would control the Red Sea port city.
Asked if that issue had been resolved, Griffiths said: “We have ideas on how to bridge the gap on the issue of the local security forces” but it would be up to the parties represented in the RCC headed by Lollesgaard to resolve it.
Three sources told Reuters last month that the first phase would see the Houthis pull back 5 km (3 miles) from the ports of Saleef, used for grain, and Ras Isa, for oil. Then the Houthis would quit Hodeidah port while coalition forces would retreat 1 km from the city’s “Kilo 8” and Saleh districts.
This would restore access cut off since September to the Red Sea Mills, which holds some 50,000 tons of World Food Programme grain, enough to feed 3.7 million people, and allow humanitarian corridors to be reopened.
Hodeidah handles the bulk of Yemen’s commercial and aid supplies and is critical for feeding the population of 30 million people. It became a focus of fighting last year, raising concern that an all-out assault could disrupt supply lines and trigger mass starvation in the poorest Arabian Peninsula nation.
“I know we’re spending an enormous amount of time, and rightly so, on Hodeidah, but it’s the gateway to the comprehensive settlement and of course failure in Hodeida is not an option,” Griffiths said.
“The aim ultimately of an agreement which will resolve the conflict and end this war is to return governing of Yemen to politicians, to return to the people of Yemen accountable government.”