Cyprus President's Urgent Call: 'We're Reaching Capacity' Amid Migration Surge from Lebanon

Syrian Migrants

Nikos Christodoulides, President of Cyprus, gave an interview to the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) titled "'We are at our limits': The President of Cyprus talks about migration flows from Lebanon and escalation in the Middle East."

Christodoulides expressed hope that the conflict in the Middle East would not escalate further and emphasized that Cyprus, being the EU member state with the closest proximity to the region, maintains excellent relations with all involved parties.

Regarding the use of two British military bases in Cyprus, he stated that there was no prior information that the British would use them and clarified that Cyprus is not involved in any way in military actions.

Christodoulides also announced that the maritime corridor for providing humanitarian aid to Gaza "can restart very soon," as the temporary port in Gaza, constructed by the US Army, will be made available. He explained that with this in place, it would be much easier to transport more humanitarian aid to Gaza using two or even three ships. He emphasized that "this is a very big step for us" and that it also led to the lifting of the ban on sailing ships from Cyprus to Gaza after 17 years.

He further commented that despite the Middle East being adjacent to the EU, "we do not have a leadership role in peace efforts." He expressed dissatisfaction with the EU's involvement in the issue so far and stressed that the Union should play a much more significant role both in de-escalating the crisis and in negotiations for a solution to the two-state issue.

Christodoulides highlighted the impact of the Middle East crisis on European security and migration, expressing satisfaction that on May 2 he will visit Lebanon with Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, where they will announce a specific package of EU economic measures, initiated by Cyprus, which will include support for Lebanese institutions, such as the country's armed forces, which are considered a factor of stability.

"It is a long-term plan, and Lebanon and the EU must fulfill their commitments in order to succeed," Christodoulides emphasized, clarifying that the goal of this agreement is for the EU to assist Lebanon in managing migration so that no more migrants come to Cyprus.

"It is a really important issue, because in the last two to three months, Syrians from Lebanon to Cyprus are arriving almost daily. But we are an island country and people remain in Cyprus," noted the President of the Republic, stating that at this moment 7% of the population of Cyprus are migrants.

He added that while there is cooperation at a bilateral level with Lebanon to stop these flows, it must also be discussed that certain areas of Syria today are de facto safe, which is why "we explicitly request that specific areas of Syria be designated as safe areas."

Asked whether Cyprus has reached its limits regarding the reception of refugees, President Christodoulides stated: "Enough. We cannot accept more Syrian refugees. We are at our limits and can no longer manage this refugee flow. That is why I asked the EU for help and decided to suspend the examination of new asylum applications. For us, this is a matter of national security. We are no longer able to respond to this challenge."

Regarding the need to attract specialized personnel, the President of the Republic pointed out that Cyprus is in talks with a number of countries, including Lebanon, with the aim of signing relevant agreements, and that it is also in contact with Egypt and India on the same issue.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Cyprus's accession to the EU, he described the accession as the most significant positive development since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960 and emphasized that Cyprus would not be able to cope with various challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for vaccine procurement or the economic crisis, if it were not an EU member.

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