Lebanon Scrambles to Contain Fallout from Nasrallah’s Threat to Cyprus

Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos. (Lebanon’s National News Agency)
Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos. (Lebanon’s National News Agency)
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Lebanon Scrambles to Contain Fallout from Nasrallah’s Threat to Cyprus

Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos. (Lebanon’s National News Agency)
Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos. (Lebanon’s National News Agency)

Lebanon scrambled to contain the fallout from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s threat that Cyprus could be implicated in a wider conflict if the island nation allows Israel to use its ports and airports to target Lebanon.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib contacted his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos, quoting him as saying that Nicosia was in no way willing to become involved in the war in the region.

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said Bou Habib told Kombos that Lebanon always looks to Cyprus’ positive role in supporting stability in the region.

Kombos reiterated a statement by the Cypriot president on Wednesday during which he said he hoped his country would be part of the solution, not the problem.

The FMs highlighted the depth of relations between their countries and the importance of bolstering bilateral cooperation for the interests of their peoples.

"The Republic of Cyprus is in no way involved in war conflict," Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides had said soon after Nasrallah’s speech, describing his comments as "not pleasant".

The European Union also weighed in. "Any threats against our member state are threats against the EU," a spokesperson said.

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati contacted Christodoulides on Thursday to thank him for his measured diplomatic response, referring to Christodoulides as a "dear friend", a Cypriot source said.

An official Lebanese source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Cypriot authorities were "understanding" of the situation, stressing that bilateral relations with Lebanon will not be impacted.

Cyprus government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis repeated that any suggestion that Cyprus – either through its infrastructure or territory - would be involved in any military operation in Lebanon is "totally groundless."

Officials in Nicosia made clear they did not want to pursue the matter further, reported Reuters.

Some Lebanese media outlets reported earlier Thursday that the Cypriot embassy was closed but the mission later clarified that they were not accepting visa applications for administrative updates and the embassy will be introducing an appointments-based system as of Monday for visa applications.

Cyprus and Lebanon have had close and historic relations for decades and the island became a refuge for thousands of Lebanese who resided on the island during Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war. Many Lebanese citizens moved again to Cyprus following the historic economic meltdown in Lebanon that started in late 2019.

It has lobbied its EU partners to offer Lebanon financial assistance, and recently set up a maritime corridor to dispatch humanitarian aid to famine-threatened Palestinians in Gaza.

In recent years, Cyprus has enjoyed increasingly tight relations with Israel and the island has hosted joint Israeli-Cypriot military exercises, but has not been involved in any military operations.

Nasrallah said his group has information that the Israel’s military is conducting maneuvers in Cyprus in mountainous areas similar to those of Lebanon adding that they also use Cypriot airports.

He added that Hezbollah has information that Israel believes that in case an all-out war breaks out, Hezbollah will target its airports and for that reason Israel might use "in its war against Lebanon Cypriot airports and bases."

"The Cypriot government should be careful that opening the airports and bases in Cyprus for the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon, means that the Cypriot government has become part of the war," Nasrallah said. "The resistance (Hezbollah) will deal with it (Cyprus) as part of the war."

‘Preemptive warning’

Riad Kahwaji, founder and CEO of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), said Nasrallah’s remarks were a "preemptive warning".

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that there was no evidence that Tel Aviv had attacked Lebanon or was ready to attack it from military bases in Cyprus.

Moreover, he noted that Israel often holds military drills with Cyprus. He instead suggested that Nasrallah’s statements were an indirect threat to the British bases on the island from where attacks are being launched against the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen.

Sami Nader, founder of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, said Nasrallah’s remarks undermine Lebanon’s voice and violate its relations with other countries.

They go against Lebanon’s historic stance and long history of relations with Cyprus, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He noted how Cyprus had welcomed Lebanese people during the civil war and had acted as their window to for the world.

Former head of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt stressed on the X platform that Cyprus had for decades been a safe refuge for the Lebanese people in times of plight.

Head of the Kataeb party MP Sami Gemayel slammed Nasrallah’s remarks, saying they were an extension of how Hezbollah is exploiting the South and tying it to conflicts that have nothing to do with Lebanon.

Kataeb MP Elias Hankash said Cyprus had long been a refuge for the Lebanese people.

"Nasrallah is insisting on breaking all of Lebanon’s friendships and threatening Europe so that Lebanon ends up completely isolated," he added.

Lebanese Forces MP Ghassan Hasbani described Nasrallah’s statements as "very dangerous", noting that after Hezbollah was done threatening "sisterly Gulf countries, leading to its isolation, it is now expanding this threat to include Cyprus and the EU by extension."



Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces agreed with the United Nations on some steps to ease aid delivery in areas under its control, a member of the RSF told Reuters on Thursday.

The Sudanese army has not reached any understandings on aid delivers with the RSF, he added. It is unclear if these steps could be implemented without the army's participation.

Meanwhile, a key supply route into Sudan's Darfur region, deemed at risk of famine by a global monitor, has been cut off due to heavy rains, a World Food Program official told Reuters on Thursday.
The UN agency has described Sudan as the world's biggest hunger crisis, with the western Darfur region most at risk as Sudan's 15-month civil war that has displaced millions and sparked ethnic violence grinds on.
WFP's Country Director Eddie Rowe said thousands of tons of aid are stranded at the Tina crossing on the Chad border, prompting the body to reopen talks with the army-aligned government to open an alternative, all-weather crossing further south called Adre.
"You have these huge rivers. As I speak now, our convoy, which is supposed to move over 2000 metric tons is stranded," he told Reuters from Port Sudan. Asked on the status of the talks that resumed this week, he said: "It's 50/50.”
WFP is now seeking clearances to move a large 70-truck convoy via a little-used, over 1000 kilometer route from Port Sudan to Darfur which Rowe said will involve crossing the battle lines of both the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces and various militias.
He added that this mostly desert route has worked in the past but outside of the rainy season and that the last journey took weeks and was "fraught with a lot of challenges.”
In a separate interview, Mona Rishmawi, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan, told Reuters that she had met Darfur refugees in Chad who told her stories of escaping with virtually no water and eating grass along the route. "There's no doubt that people are starving," she said.