UN agencies, 36 countries mull aid to Gaza through Cyprus

By Thomson Reuters Mar 21, 2024 | 4:50 AM

LARNACA, Cyprus (Reuters) – Officials from 36 countries and U.N. agencies gathered in Cyprus on Thursday to discuss how to expedite aid to besieged Palestinians in Gaza via a sea route launched last week.

Thursday’s gathering is being attended by Sigrid Kaag, the U.N.’s senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, as well as Curtis Ried, chief of staff of the U.S. National Security Council.

As famine looms over Gaza, agencies are increasingly looking for alternative routes to get aid into the enclave other than land crossings. But lack of infrastructure is an issue; one charity which dispatched aid from Cyprus last week made a landing jetty out of rubble, while the U.S. has also announced plans to create a floating pier.

Under an agreement hammered out with Israel, cargoes can undergo security inspections in Cyprus by a team including Israel, eliminating the need for screenings at its final offloading point to remove potential hold-ups in aid deliveries.

One vessel left Cyprus last week and distributed aid in Gaza, while another two are expected to depart in coming days, subject to weather conditions.

“We are discussing how we can max up operational capacity both in terms of departure and means of transport and also in relation to the reception and distribution methodology,” said Constantinos Kombos, Cyprus’s foreign minister.

Delegates would also discuss the creation of a fund to coordinate operational activities of the initiative, Kombos said, although he clarified it was not a donor’s conference.

Asked how many vessels could be departing Cyprus with aid once the initiative is at full operational capacity, Kombos said “as many as possible”.

“We have to remember there are limitations in terms of the reception and distribution and the whole point is not to just stockpile aid here but about a quick turnaround so we are as efficient as possible.”

(Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)