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Cyprus denies co-operating with Israel amid Hezbollah threats

June 21, 2024 at 3:04 pm

Hundreds of people gather to follow the speech of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, on a screen, in Beirut, Lebanon on November 3, 2023 [Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu Agency]

Cyprus has firmly rejected the possibility of cooperating with Israel in any potential conflict, following recent threats from Hezbollah. The Mediterranean island nation has reaffirmed its neutrality and commitment to peace in the region.

Hezbollah chief, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, issued a stern warning on Wednesday, stating that “Opening Cypriot airports and bases to the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon would mean that the Cypriot government is part of the war, and the resistance [Hezbollah] will deal with it as part of the war.” Nasrallah further cautioned that, in the event of a broader conflagration, “there will be no place safe from our missiles and our drones.”

In response to these threats, Cypriot officials have been quick to emphasise the country’s neutral stance. Government spokesperson, Konstantinos Letymbiotis, told the public broadcaster, CyBC, “Cyprus is not involved, and will not be involved, in any war or conflicts.” He added that Cyprus has “excellent” relations with Lebanon and would not allow any State to use its territory for military operations against another.

Cypriot President, Nikos Christodoulides, stressed the island’s role as a “pillar of peace” in the region, highlighting Cyprus’s efforts in establishing a sea corridor for humanitarian aid to Gaza. “Cyprus is not part of the problem … [it] is part of the solution,” Christodoulides stated.

Read: Israel edging to war with Hezbollah, army chief says

However, the threats from Hezbollah have brought attention to Cyprus’s evolving relationship with Israel and the US. In recent years, Cyprus has allowed Israel to use its airspace for military drills and has participated in joint exercises. Two years ago, the Israel Defence Forces used Cyprus to stage war games simulating combat in Lebanon, involving what was reported to be the largest ever number of Israeli troops sent abroad for such exercises.

These collaborations have not gone unnoticed by Hezbollah. Prof Hubert Faustmann, who teaches history and political science at the University of Nicosia, commented on the situation: “This is the first serious challenge and the price Cyprus might have to pay for the pro-Israeli shift it has made in the last years.”

Faustmann also noted the delicate balance Cyprus must maintain: “The Cypriots would never allow their facilities or territory to be used by Israel for armed confrontation because they know it would seriously harm their relations with all other countries in the region.”