US Ambassador commends transport of 159 foreign nationals from Israel to Limassol
14:35 - 17 October 2023
The cruise ship Rhapsody of the Seas sailed into Limassol port at dawn, carrying 159 foreign nationals from Israel, the majority of them Americans, as part of the ferry route arranged by the US Embassy in cooperation with the Republic of Cyprus.
The US-Cyprus cooperation was praised by Ambassador Julie Fisher, who was at the passenger terminal on the morning of 17 October.
The Royal Caribbean cruise ship docked at Limassol Port shortly after 6am and the foreign nationals, the majority of whom were families with young children and elderly people, boarded either buses that temporarily transported them to an accommodation centre in Paphos, or buses that transported them to Larnaca Airport, while some who chose to remain in Limassol were picked up by taxi drivers.
In her remarks, US Ambassador Julie Fisher said she was pleased to be in Limassol for "such an important work between the US and Cyprus".
"We’ve got a really significant presence here of some of our best counsel officers who are here to help us, as we receive Americans who were looking for some support as they left Israel," she said, adding that supporting American citizens continues to be the highest priority of any American embassy anywhere in the world.
There is, she continued, a tremendous partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Guard, the Immigration authorities, and the Port Authorities, "which is essential to the smooth arrival and the onward processing of these Americans."
"This is a very difficult time as you can imagine for those who are choosing to leave Israel and so we want to help do everything we can to make that smooth," she added.
Ambassador Fisher also noted that “the leadership from across the Government here in Cyprus is making a huge difference for our citizens and from what I have seen, for the citizens of so many nations".
Asked to comment on the small number of people who chose to be removed, by sea, from Israel, Fisher said that "I have spent lot of my time in my career working on various crises, working to support American citizens in evolving situations, and what is really important is that we have options for American citizens".
"This is a situation where the events on the ground are developing. We are going to see President Biden on the ground in Israel tomorrow, Secretary Blinken just announced that a couple of hours ago," she said, adding that "we have a lot of developments in Israel, in the region, and so estimating on anyone flying or sailing is a very challenging question and I think what we will see is an evolution in the coming days and hours."
Asked whether it is these anticipated developments that may have led American citizens to have second thoughts about leaving Israel, Julie Fisher said she could not speak for these families, noting that "each family, each individual American is going to make their own decisions about what works for them and their safety and their security."
At the same time, she stressed that "President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken have been clear about our support for Israel and Israel's right to defend its state and its citizens."
We have been also clear, she continued, "in our commitment to support a humanitarian corridor into Gaza," indicating that "Hamas does not represent the will of the Palestinian people and so these humanitarian questions are extremely important."
This, she said, was the reason why the US Secretary of State has been conducting shuttle diplomacy in recent days, while signaling US commitment to ensure that this conflict does not broaden.
On whether more routes for American citizens from Israel to Cyprus are expected, the US Ambassador said her country stands ready to support its citizens as the situation evolves.
"The partnership we have with Cyprus in support of civilians in this moment is incredibly essential to our planning. I expect we will continue these efforts," she added.
Asked to assess security levels in Cyprus, Fisher said that the security situation in Cyprus is one that the US feels incredibly confident in.
"You see it in terms of how we have the level of cooperation we have across the services here. Choosing Cyprus again and again and again as a location to transit Americans, I think it speaks the level of confidence we’ve got," the US Ambassador said concluding her statement.
Out of the 159 foreign nationals that arrived at the port of Limassol, around 100, mostly Americans, were transferred by two buses to the accommodation site in Paphos at around 11:00 a.m.
The preparations for their temporary accommodation and feeding were made during the previous days in cooperation with the Civil Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In her statements at Paphos airport, the Civil Defence deputy spokesperson, Hara Lazarou, told reporters that people from Israel had arrived and that the Civil Defence in cooperation with the Red Cross and the State Health Services Organisation, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, organised their transport and accommodation in the Republic of Cyprus.
Lazarou added that "we are doing our best to ensure that all those arriving from Israel reach their countries safely, in cooperation with the Embassy of each country and ports and airports authorities."