Cyprus detains weapon-laden ship

Sunday, February 1, 2009

On Friday, authorities in Cyprus said that they had detained a ship carrying the nation's flag. The ship, which had initially docked at Port Said in Egypt, went to the Cypriot port of Limassol after Egyptian authorities ordered it to leave.

In Limassol, the container ship, the Monchegorsk, was anchored and boarded by Cypriot authorities. It still remains anchored there as of Sunday. The Famagusta Gazette cited well-informed sources as saying the ship contains specialized components for the manufacture of rockets.

According to reports, the ship was initially stopped in the Red Sea by the United States Navy, but it lacked the authority to board the ship or prevent it from continuing its route.

Cyprus state radio reported the vessel was Russian-owned traveling from Iran to Syria with weapons destined for Hamas.

Haaretz reported that Israel believes the weapons were bound for Hezbollah or for Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

On Friday, the President of Cyprus said the ship was in violation of United Nations resolutions. However, he did not go into detail.

"We are investigating what it is carrying and for this reason we have to handle things very responsibly and with a great deal of seriousness, without a lot of media noise," President Dimitris Christofias said.

"It is a problem for us that we are forced to accept a ship under the Cypriot flag which is carrying whatever [it] is carrying, which is contrary or in conflict with Security Council resolutions," Christofias added.

On Sunday, Cyprus foreign minister Markos Kyprianou said that the government was still investigating whether the ship was in violation of United Nations resolutions.

"Our aim is to resolve the matter in the best possible way without harming the interests of the Republic of Cyprus ... The less that is said the better," said Marios Garoyian, president of the House of Representatives of Cyprus.