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The usurpation of Lebanon's sovereignty has destroyed the country

3 min

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, caused a surprise on Wednesday, when in a speech he attacked Cyprus for the first time since the start of the conflict, despite the fact that Beirut and Nicosia generally enjoy cordial relations, with the island welcoming hundreds of Lebanese workers.

 Samy Gemayel

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, caused a surprise on Wednesday, when in a speech he attacked Cyprus for the first time since the start of the conflict, despite the fact that Beirut and Nicosia generally enjoy cordial relations, with the island welcoming hundreds of Lebanese workers.

The warnings issued by the secretary-general of the party provoked numerous reactions from the political class in Beirut and the Cypriot authorities.

In his speech, the Hezbollah leader warned Nicosia against "opening Cypriot airports and bases to the Israeli enemy," in the event of a wider war with Israel.

These unprecedented threats soon prompted a reaction from Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulidès. "I have read Hassan Nasrallah's comments and I would like to say that the Republic of Cyprus is in no way involved in this war," retorted the Cypriot president in a statement. Cyprus is "part of the solution, not part of the problem," he added, pointing out that his country was playing a role "recognized by the Arab world and the entire international community" in the deployment of a maritime corridor to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza.

In a brief statement, which did not mention Nasrallah, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry affirmed that "Lebanese-Cypriot relations are based on a long history of diplomatic cooperation and that bilateral dialogue continues at the highest level to discuss issues of common interest."

In addition, quoted by LBCI, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry denied rumors concerning the permanent closure of the Cyprus embassy in Beirut. According to Bustros Palace, the embassy will be closed on Thursday "for one day only ... for administrative reasons" and this decision "has nothing to do with Sayyed Nasrallah's speech." "This closure is related to the increase in visa fees and the embassy will reopen tomorrow (Friday)," the ministry said. The Cypriot embassy was not available to comment on the decision.

On the Lebanese side, several political figures condemned Nasrallah's threats against the Cypriot government and called for restraint. "Cyprus has been a refuge for the Lebanese for years when the country was facing problems," recalled former Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt on X.

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel denounced a discourse that enshrines "Lebanon's involvement in conflicts that do not concern it." "This usurpation of Lebanon's sovereignty has destroyed the country and the future of its inhabitants. Life on the surface is different from life underground. The Lebanese don't want war, they want to live," wrote the Kataeb leader on X, in an allusion to rumors that Nasrallah has been living in hiding in an underground bunker for several years. 

On social networks, media personalities also criticized Nasrallah's outing.

"Hezbollah has threatened maritime freight in the Middle East and the European Republic of Cyprus. This escalating discourse is fully supported by the axis of Mumanaa," denounced Peter Germanos, former government commissioner at the military court, on X.

For journalist Tony Boulos, "Hezbollah now threatens international security." "Does Nasrallah know that Cyprus is home to thousands of Lebanese he himself pushed to emigrate? Does he know that hundreds of Lebanese businessmen have set up offices on the island after he caused the [economic] downfall of Lebanon?" wrote the journalist, while calling on the UN "to take the necessary measures to protect the Lebanese."

Shortly after the speech ended, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant commented on other aspects of the speech, including the leader's threat that, in the event of open conflict, the Israelis would have to "wait for us by land, sea and air." "The Israeli army continues to prepare for any threat, whether it be defensive or offensive. The situation in the North [of Israel] will change, either with an agreement or with an expanded military operation. We have an obligation to allow our citizens to return to their homes," Gallant said Wednesday on X, referring to the tens of thousands of residents of northern Israel displaced by the fighting.

Refraining from referring directly to Nasrallah's speech, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, said that his party was "working to keep Lebanon away from war." "When we talk about war, we're talking about Israel, because it's Israel that's threatening us," Bassil said on Wednesday at a dinner organized by his party. "The cause of this security situation is not the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon, but the presence of Israel ... If war is declared, our people will not surrender. Let's not forget what Israel did to Lebanon and to the Kesrouan bridges (during the July 2006 war). We will have no choice but to defend our land, even if we don't agree that Hezbollah started the war in the south," said Bassil.

© OLJ 

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