- Sport : Monaco offers Hamilton his best chance yet
- Cyprus : Schulz calls for ‘spirit of solidarity’ towards Cyprus as...
- our view : Our View: Both AKEL and DISY guilty of double standards when it...
- Charilaos Stavrakis : Ministry official points the finger at Stavrakis
- Central Bank : Central Bank sees 'substantial' risks to economy
- bank of cyprus : New CEO for BoC imminent
- Cyprus : Limassol marina receives first yachts
- Cyprus : Staff strike at Sigma and Hard Rock cafe
- British experts : Reform of public service underway
- aristo developers : ‘State will gain millions in taxes from sale of Venus Rock’
Cyprus stops MPs from joining Gaza flotilla
CYPRIOT authorities prevented pro-Palestinian activists, including 30 MPs from nine European countries, from leaving the island yesterday to join a flotilla in international waters, which is on its way to blockaded Gaza.
In addition to issuing an edict banning ships headed for Gaza to set sail from the island’s ports, or dock on the island on their way back, the authorities yesterday forbade any small vessels from leaving Cyprus in case they were on their way to the flotilla of eight ships carrying around 700 peace activists, and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid.
This is the eighth time activists have tried to break the Israeli embargo on Gaza. On the seven other occasions, the aid ships left from Cyprus’ ports.
What is unusual this time is not the actual ban on the Free Gaza ships docking at the island’s ports, but the government’s refusal to allow small vessels to leave the island simply to drop people off at a ship in international waters.
"Anything related to the trip to Gaza is not permitted," police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos told Reuters yesterday.
A spokesman for the Free Gaza group said the activists, including 17 members of parliament from Ireland, Bulgaria and Sweden, would attempt to meet the flotilla by departing through the north.
"We are bitterly disappointed with the Cypriot government," Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for Free Gaza Movement told the news agency.
Cypriot MEP Kyriakos Triantafyllides told the Cyprus Mail that around 20 of the foreign MPs had earlier in the day decided to head north to try and sail from occupied Famagusta port, while their Greek and Cypriot counterparts stayed behind.
Triantafyllides said however that in the late afternoon he heard that those MEPs who crossed north were returning to the government-controlled areas, having failed to secure a way off the island through Famagusta.
Authorities in the north said yesterday evening they had no information about a group of MEPs wanting to use Famagusta port to join the Gaza convoy.
The government yesterday defended its decision. “It is well known that the Republic of Cyprus is fighting for survival and believes that any actions that cause difficulties, damage even, should be avoided,” deputy government spokesman Titos Christofides said.
The government also denied it bowed to pressure from Israel to put the ban in place.
“It was the result of a decision which the Republic of Cyprus took on its own, taking into consideration all the data, all the factors, all the dangers and threats to its national interests,” Transport Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoullis told reporters.
The minister stressed that Cyprus had time and time again supported the rights of the Palestinian people and the relation between the two peoples was “very close and brotherly.”
She added that relations with Israel were also good in all areas, financial, political and others.
Regarding the dangers Cyprus currently faces, Marcoullis referred to efforts to advance the direct trade regulation with the occupied areas and “the continuous effort … for the daily (sea) link between Haifa and Famagusta.”
Triantafyllides who heads the Cyprus initiative, said he was only concerned with the group reaching Gaza and delivering the pharmaceutical and other material on board.
“We want to give the message to the international community that we are in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle; that Israel cannot continue this inhumane treatment of women, children and the elderly and the international community remaining indifferent,” Triantafyllides said.
The Gaza flotilla, which is off the east coast of Cyprus, is poised to reach Gaza over the weekend. Israel has urged convoy to turn back, saying its navy was prepared to intercept it.
Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas -- an Islamist resistance movement came to power in the impoverished Palestinian territory.