Written by 23:26 World

Hezbollah Has Threatened Cyprus. Here’s Why.

Cyprus found itself at the center of the world’s attention this week when the leader of Hezbollah threatened to target the small island nation if it supported Israel in potential war efforts.

Amid intensifying violence between the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese militia and the Israeli military at the Israel-Lebanon border, Hezbollah’s chief warned on Wednesday that the armed group would punish Cyprus if it allowed Israel to use its airports and bases to target Lebanon, saying it would be “part of the war.”

The warning from the Hezbollah chief, Hassan Nasrallah, came as world leaders were scrambling to contain the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah despite apparent efforts by both sides to keep the cycle of strikes and counterstrikes from spiraling into a full-blown war.

Here’s a closer look at how Cyprus has been pulled into the situation.

Cyprus and Israel have economic, political and strategic ties. Their militaries have conducted joint exercises and exchanged visits, and the two countries have a defense cooperation program, according to the Cyprus Ministry of Defense. Cyprus has similar relationships with many other nations, including Britain, Egypt, France and, notably, Lebanon.

Cyprus also has a “defense attaché” in Israel — and in about two dozen other nations — as part of what it calls “active defense diplomacy.”

There is an additional cooperation agreement between Cyprus, Greece and Israel, which Cyprus says is aimed at “strengthening peace, stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

President Nikos Christodoulides of Cyprus wrote in a post on social media on Wednesday that his country was “not involved in the war conflicts in any way.” He added that Cyprus maintained communication channels with the governments of Lebanon and Iran and stressed the importance of diplomacy.

Cyprus has helped to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza by sea, and the American military has used the island nation to transport assistance to the war-torn territory.

In his statement, Mr. Christodoulides emphasized that Cyprus was “part of the solution,” an apparent allusion to the country’s efforts to help get aid to Gaza.

Officials from the Lebanese government tried to allay the concerns of their Cypriot counterparts on Thursday, assuring them of Lebanon’s commitment to peace. While Hezbollah is a formidable political force in Lebanon, its parliamentary bloc lost a majority in the national election in 2022, and its positions do not always represent the official government stance.

Other allies of Cyprus also condemned Hezbollah’s threat.

Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member, on Thursday expressed support for Cyprus, saying that “any threat against one of our member states is a threat against the European Union.”

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, called Mr. Nasrallah’s comments “extremely unproductive.”

“Our preference would be for Hezbollah to pursue a diplomatic resolution,” he added at a press briefing Thursday.


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Last modified: 22 June 2024
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