Lebanese Officials Seek to Maintain Cyprus Ties After Hezbollah Threat

Lebanese government officials worked on Thursday to maintain friendly relations with Cyprus, a day after the militant Hezbollah group threatened to attack the Mediterranean island if it allows Israel to use its territories to attack Lebanon.

Lebanon’s state news agency said Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib told his Cypriot counterpart that Beirut relies on the positive role that Cyprus plays in support of stability in the Middle East.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Cyprus in a rare threat not to allow Israel’s military to use its airports on the island to bomb Lebanon should a full-blown war break out between Israel and

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.

The Lebanon-Israel border has witnessed almost daily exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israel’s military that have left more than 400 people dead in Lebanon since Oct. 8. Most of the fatalities have been fighters but they also include more than 80 civilians and non-combatants. On the Israeli side, 16 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed over the past eight months.

The level of threats between Israel and Hezbollah intensified following last week’s killing by Israel of Hezbollah’s most senior commander since the fighting began. Hezbollah retaliated by firing in retaliation.

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.

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 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.”

Nasrallah added that when Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides visited Lebanon recently, Lebanese officials spoke with him about the matter and he denied there were such plans.

“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.”

Cyprus government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis repeated that any suggestion that Cyprus, either through its infrastructure or territory, would be involved in any is “totally groundless.”

Nasrallah was criticized by some Lebanese politicians who warned that his comments could harm relations with Cyprus and the European Union.

“Cyprus was a refuge and welcomed all Lebanese but Nasrallah is insisting that we have no friend left,” legislator Elias Hankash of the Christian Kataeb Party told Al-Arabiya TV. “The threat to Europe leaves Lebanon in complete isolation.”

Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Union’s executive arm, said Thursday that any threat against Cyprus is a threat against the bloc’s 26 other member nations.

Last year, Cyprus said it had disrupted an alleged Iranian plot to target Israeli businessmen with the arrest of two Iranian asylum-seekers who were in contact with another Iranian associated with the Revolutionary Guard.

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