Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

Dear Roberta, I welcome you today in Cyprus, here at the Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre (JRCC), on what has turned out to be a very sombre day.

Early this morning we have learnt the news of the deaths of seven humanitarian aid workers working for World Central Kitchen (WCK) in Gaza, trying to deliver desperately needed assistance. WCK is one of our crucial partners in sending much needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza and on implementing the Amalthea initiative. I express our sincere condolences to the WCK and the countries which have lost their citizens, and we call for an immediate and complete investigation of this incident.

Dear Roberta, it has been six months since your last visit on the island but even in this short period, the circumstances are now distinctly different.

In your previous visit on October 1st, you joined me in celebrating Cyprus’ Independence Day. Just six days later, a war broke out in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood, across the sea from Cyprus. And the tragic events of last night prove once again that this is not a regional crisis of limited concern or impact. Its effects reverberate across the region and impact Europe in crucial areas, such as security and migration.

The tragic events should not discourage us. We must double down on our efforts to provide more assistance as the needs dramatically escalate. We should also not overlook what has been achieved so far and what it is possible when we persevere in doing what is right, what is necessary.

In this context, I consider it important that at the recent European Council we finally adopted conclusions on the Middle East, because I truly believe that as a Union, we should not be mere observers to this crisis. We have a responsibility to act and we should be an integral part of initiatives, together with our partners, to put an end to the war and start a political process for a lasting solution, based on relevant United Nation (UN) Security Council resolutions.

Dear Roberta, your presence here today as President of the European Parliament, representing almost 400 million European citizens, is a strong message that Europe and its citizens care deeply about the severely deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, and that they stand behind initiatives to alleviate the crisis.

With the Amalthea initiative, Cyprus, as the closest EU member state to the Middle East, which has excellent relations with all its neighbours in the region, aims to fulfil its moral obligation to ease the suffering of civilians in Gaza. To this end, we are working closely with our partners, including the UN, of course the EU, the United States (US), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and others.

Safe delivery and distribution of humanitarian assistance is a must. It is our obligation as international community to scale up our efforts to ensure increased deliveries of much-needed aid and underscore in the strongest of terms that humanitarian aid workers must have full protection in conducting their essential efforts in providing food and humanitarian assistance. International humanitarian law is crystal clear as regards respecting and protecting humanitarian aid workers.

I want to stress once more that the Amaltheia initiative is not a substitute to other routes, namely the all-important land routes and the air drops. It is complementary to them, with the sole purpose being to increase the provision of assistance by sea and to mutually reinforce all pathways for sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need.

We have already dispatched the first two shipments with hundreds of tons of aid directly to Gaza, through close partnership with the UAE. Furthermore, in cooperation with partners and stakeholders, we are working on rendering the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza more stable and predictable.

We also started working on the funding modalities of the maritime corridor by activating the “Amalthea Fund”.

I would also like to refer to the US Government’s decision to establish a maritime pier off the coast of Gaza, which should be operational very soon and will allow for a significantly scaled-up flow of assistance.

With President Metsola, we had the opportunity last night to discuss other issues of common concern. As always, I briefed Roberta on our continued efforts to resume negotiations on the Cyprus problem, including my recent meeting with the UN Secretary-General in Brussels. We will have another European Council in two weeks where EU-Turkey relations will be discussed. We are ready for progress on this file in a step-by-step approach, provided that Turkey engages constructively on all aspects of EU-Turkey relations, including, of course, the Cyprus problem and the resumption of talks based on UN Security Council resolutions, which is an essential component of the relationship between Brussels and Ankara.

We also exchanged views on migration. Here at the JRCC, we monitor all sea traffic going in and out of Cyprus. The number of Syrian migrants coming from Lebanon has been consistently increasing in recent weeks which is deeply concerning. I fully understand the challenges Lebanon is facing, but exporting migrants to Cyprus should not be the answer and cannot be accepted. Towards that end, the EU should also stand by Cyprus in tangible ways.

Finally, we exchanged views on the upcoming June European elections. I warmly welcome Roberta’s initiative to visit member states in order to motivate people, especially Europe’s youth, to vote. Increased youth participation to the election is a shared goal and a point I have been consistently making, including at a panel discussion with Cypriot youth last month and in my speech to students at the College of Europe in Bruges two weeks ago. This year, when we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our EU accession in Cyprus, increased interest and participation to the European elections is a timely test for all of us and a personal bet for me, and we must rise to the occasion.

I take also today’s opportunity to wish Roberta every success on her own candidacy for the elections as I firmly believe that she has done an excellent job and has been an exemplary President of the European Parliament.

Dear Roberta, once again, it is a great pleasure to host you and your team to Cyprus. The European Parliament’s support on all the issues we discussed, but especially on the Cyprus problem and the Amalthea initiative, is extremely important and greatly appreciated.

For the statements of the President of the European Parliament, press here.

For the video of the statements, press here.