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Cyprus Navigates Tensions as Hezbollah Issues Warning Amid Israel-Lebanon Conflict

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Recent developments in the Middle East have put Cyprus in an unexpected spotlight following warnings from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. On June 19, Nasrallah cautioned that if Cyprus aided Israel in attacking Lebanon, it could become a target.

The island country, traditionally neutral in regional conflicts, quickly responded to Nasrallah’s comments. Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides stated, “The Republic of Cyprus is in no way involved in war conflict,” describing Nasrallah’s remarks as “not pleasant.” The European Union also voiced support for Cyprus, with a spokesperson asserting, “Any threats against our member state are threats against the EU.”

The situation has prompted diplomatic efforts to ease tensions. Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati contacted Christodoulides to thank him for his measured response, referring to the Cypriot leader as a “dear friend.” Similarly, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib spoke with his Cypriot counterpart to highlight Lebanon’s “continued reliance” on Cyprus’s role in regional stability.

Despite these diplomatic exchanges, analysts have differing views on the potential consequences. Imad Salamey, a political scientist at the Lebanese American University, suggested that “Cyprus’s declaration of neutrality can be viewed as a strategic win for Hezbollah,” potentially deterring Israel from expanding its military actions.

However, the situation remains complex. Maha Yahya, director of Malcolm H Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, noted, “I’m not sure what they can do honestly beyond disruption and covert operation. [Hezbollah] understands that targeting Cyprus will bring in the EU and NATO.”

Cyprus faces additional concerns beyond direct military threats. The potential influx of refugees from Lebanon and Syria in the event of a broader conflict is a significant worry for the Cypriot government and the EU.

Karim Emile Bitar, an associate professor at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, highlighted the volatile nature of the situation:

“We are living in a world where emotions are running extremely high and actors – on both sides of the border – are not necessarily [acting] rational. This is why I’m worried that both parties – even if they have not made the decision explicitly to go to war – any miscalculation could open the doors of hell.”

As tensions continue to simmer, Cyprus finds itself navigating a delicate balance between maintaining its neutrality and addressing regional security concerns.

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