3)

"We came in sight of Cyprus, and leaving it on our left we sailed on to Syria and landed at Tyre because the ship was to unload its cargo there." (Acts 21:3)

It’s a story that, amazingly, is finding very little coverage.  Yet again, Cyprus is positioned right in the center of the action. But in this case, it’s not a matter of Geography.

A Cypriot-flagged container ship, going from Iran to Syria, is stopped by U.S. in the Red Sea, under suspicion of sending weapons to Gaza. The ship is searched and let go, followed by American officials urging it to be seized for breaching U.N. sanctions since Iran is not allowed to send arms abroad. The ship goes through the Suez Canal and stops at Cyprus, where Cypriot authorities quietly stop it, search it once, search it twice, and, still holding the ship, send a report to U.N..

Admiral Mike Mullen (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) said the vessel was stopped in the Red Sea carrying Iranian arms, “including propellant and other casings for artillery and tank rounds, as well as shell casings”. U.S. authorities suspect the shipment was ultimately bound for Gaza, but they were not authorized to seize the weapons or detain the ship. Even the search itself had to be under permission of the captain.

On Friday, Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias said the ship had violated U.N. resolutions. But on the next day Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said a first inspection of the Monchegorsk was complete. A second inspection took place two days later. A report on the cargo was given the U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committee. And now Cyprus is awaiting United Nations guidance on whether the ship’s cargo breached sanctions.

Cyprus authorities have been tight-lipped about the ship and its cargo, insisting that disclosing information about a “delicate and sensitive matter” would hamper their handling of the case. Of course they are concerned: with the fourth largest merchant navy in the world, shipping provides for 2% of the island’s GDP. Cyprus is in a tough position of trying to protect their interests and at the same time suffering international pressure about the dealings of its customers. In a sense, reminds of the role Swiss banks played during the Nazi regime.

* * *

UPDATE:
Cypriot authorities on Friday 13th began to unload the cargo, after a ruling by the UN sanctions committee that the cargo was in breach of a resolution against Iranian arms exports. There were more than 90 containers on the ship containing raw materials that could be used to manufacture ammunition.

Advertisements