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Cyprus asks EU to set up mechanism to handle possible Lebanese refugee influx
2006-08-04 13:07:57

Nicosia, Aug 4 (CNA) -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Coordinating Committee responsible for handling the emergency situation, which has arisen from the crisis in Lebanon, briefed the members of Diplomatic Missions in Cyprus on the efforts of the competent Cypriot authorities to assist the rescue operations from war-stricken Lebanon and the safe repatriation of foreign nationals.

The meeting took place here Friday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nicosia where diplomats were informed by Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Alexandros Zenon and Minister Plenipotentiary and General Coordinator of the Managing Committee established to handle the situation Homer Mavrommatis.

During a press conference after the briefing, Zenon reminded the position of the Cyprus government as regards the hostilities in Lebanon, noting that ?there should be an immediate ceasefire before a peacekeeping force is developed? noting it must have strong mandate from the Security Council.

?We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of violence on the part of Israel, even if we consider Hizbollah to have a responsibility for the current situation. We condemn the disproportionate use of violence because it results with the death of civilians, who have nothing to do with Hizbollah?s activities?, he said, adding that Cyprus favours a political settlement.

The FM official also remarked that Cyprus will not be able to face a possible refugee crisis if there is not a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon and asked the European Union to help set up a mechanism for resolving collectively the problem.

''Our position,'' Zenon said, ''is that the management of the situation should be undertaken at a European level'', because ''Cyprus cannot anymore by itself, though it has responded until now to the crisis, accept a temporary or permanent stay in its territory of persons who probably do not have the means to accommodate their needs?.

Asked about the people transferred to Cyprus by the US government, Mavrommatis said there are still 92 persons on the island who are staying at the moment, at hotels and some of them do not have enough money to remain there until their applications for entering the US are processed.

On the same issue, Zenon told journalists that Director of the Cyprus problem division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Erato Kozakou Markoulli made a representation to the US Embassy in Nicosia, reminding the Cyprus government's position that the country transferring people from Lebanon to the island is also responsible to repatriate them.

''They have to undertake their responsibilities,'' Zenon said expressing the view that the USA Embassy will address the issue.

Zenon assured that Cyprus will put at the EU and international community's disposal its services and infrastructure for sending the humanitarian aid to Lebanon.

''The idea is to bring humanitarian aid to Cypriot ports with the responsibility and expense of the countries that provide it, and after that the aid will be sent to Lebanon by ships provided by the Greek Navy,'' Zenon said adding the Cyprus government has already sent to Lebanon medicines worth 60.000 Cyprus pounds (around 120,000 US dollars) while a further 100.000 Cyprus pounds have been allocated for humanitarian aid.

Coordinator of the Managing Committee established to handle the situation Homer Mavrommatis said Cyprus has received until now 54.250 people and right now, there are on the island 400 Canadians waiting to depart Saturday evening and 20 Germans who also are going to depart tomorrow.

Mavrommatis also said next Monday the French war ship ''Mistral'' is expected to arrive carrying 1,000 French nationals from Lebanon.

On behalf of the Health Ministry, the Emergency Department Director at the Nicosia General Hospital Costas Antoniades said the medical services of the Cyprus Republic examined, among other, 90 patients aboard the ship ''Ierapetra'' as well as 680 persons at Larnaca and Limassol ports, 399 patients at camps, while 40 persons were admitted into the hospitals.

Antoniades said the medical services have also provided the necessary assistance to a pregnant woman from Lebanon and helped her give birth to a baby girl Friday morning. The woman has been transferred to Cyprus from Lebanon by the American government.

Police Deputy Chief for Support Charalampos Mavros said the Police responded from the start of the crisis and is on alert to prevent illegal aliens from entering Cyprus.

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