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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 08-12-30

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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>




    Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Kyprianou regrets that the boat «Dignity», carrying a team of volunteers, has not been permitted to approach Gaza in order to deliver urgent humanitarian and medical aid to the Palestinian population.

    An official press release said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is closely monitoring the situation and is taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of those on board.

    To this end, the Ministry is in contact with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Israel and Lebanon and other authorities concerned, as well as with members of the team of volunteers, it added.

    The boat had set sail on Monday from Larnaca. It was intercepted Tuesday morning by Israeli navy boats in international waters, according to activists on board.

    All on board are said to be fine.

    Meanwhile, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has instructed his countrys authorities to grant every possible assistance to those on board the Dignity.

    The Embassy of Lebanon in Nicosia informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the President of Lebanon had instructed Lebanese authorities to grant every possible help to those on board the vessel.

    Meanwhile, the Cypriot FM has departed for Paris to attend a meeting of EU Foreign Affairs Ministers on the situation in the Middle East.

    Bernard Kouchner, the French Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and current President of the Council of the European Union, in agreement with the future Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, has decided to bring together his European counterparts, the Secretary General of the Council and High Representative for CFSP, and the European Commission to urgently examine the situation in the Middle East in light of the gravity of recent events.

    The Ministers will discuss the European Unions contribution to settling the current crisis in liaison with the international community`s efforts, especially those of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, with whom Kouchner is in contact.

    The meeting will take place on Tuesday, 30 December at 18:30 local time at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, and will be followed by a working dinner.

    Earlier Tuesday, Kyprianou had a telephone conversation with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Aboul Gheit, with whom he examined ways to ease the current crisis.

    Within the framework of this effort, Kyprianou will continue contacts with other EU Foreign Ministers, the press release added.

    In another development, the Cypriot Foreign Ministry is advising Cypriot nationals to avoid visiting Gaza and the areas of Israel which neighbour Gaza, because of the volatile situation.

    It also urges Cypriots who might be in Israel or the West Bank or are intending to visit Israel or the West Bank for urgent reasons, to be careful due to the situation.

    Cypriot nationals are urged to contact the Embassy of Cyprus in Tel Aviv at the following numbers: 00 972 3 5250212 Ž 6292546. It also said that further information can be obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the following numbers: 00357-99 660129 and Consular Affairs Directorate, tel: 00357-22 401124, 00357-22 401154, 00357-22 401122.


    The Embassy of Israel in Cyprus has issued a press release, communicated by an Israeli Navy Spokesperson, saying that the SS Dignity, carrying medical aid from Cyprus to Gaza, hit an Israeli vessel, which had hailed it to turn round.

    ``The SS Dignity set sail from Cyprus on December 29 towards the Gaza Strip. During the process of identifying the ship, Israeli naval vessels approached in order to inform it that it would not be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, which is a war zone and under closure,`` the press release says.

    It adds that ``the Dignity did not answer the Israeli hail and responded by making a sharp turn`` and that ``the Israeli vessel was forced to execute emergency maneuvers in order to avoid the Dignity.``

    ``The Dignity continued sailing and hit the Israeli vessel. Both vessels suffered light damage,`` it says.

    The press release notes that, ``following this incident, the Dignity answered the Israeli hail and began moving towards Cyprus.``

    ``Israeli naval ships are escorting the Dignity and extending any assistance required on its way to the Cypriot port of Larnaca. The Israeli navy offered its assistance to the ship and was told that it was not necessary,`` it says.

    It adds that ``the fact that journalists were among those aboard the Dignity indicates that the purpose and behaviour of the ship was primarily to create a media event.``

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