THE MODERNISATION and upgrade of the National Guard is a top priority, Minister of Defence Fotis Fotiou said on Friday.
Presenting an account of the work done in the ministry of defence over the past six months, Fotiou said a study on the future of the National Guard was prepared and will be handed over to the president and the cabinet before the end of the year. The study foresees a radical cut in the number of military units and reservists, while reducing military service.
The said the destruction of antiquated ammunition will start within three months, following a recent agreement signed with the Spanish company EXPAL Systems.
He said that by the end of the year a deal on two military vessels will be concluded, to be used in supervising the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Cooperation with Israel is ever expanding, due to mutual need for energy security in the EEZ, and a relevant agreement is expected to be signed soon, he added.
He said reorganising the National Guard was vital because of developments in the geopolitical environment, efforts to explore and exploit hydrocarbons, financial conditions and Turkish threats against Cyprus. He said that the size of armed forces was “disproportionate” to the state’s ability to effectively sustain it.
On efforts to reduce draft dodgers, those deemed temporarily unfit to serve will be re-examined by the competent committee within six months, instead of one year, the minister said.
Describing the three pillars of Cyprus’ defence strategy, Fotiou said they included maintaining peace and security in the Republic, protecting sovereign rights in the EEZ and obtaining “Partnership for Peace” (PfP) membership within NATO.
On PfP membership, Fotiou said his ministry was cooperating closely with the foreign ministry.