By Constantinos Psillides
Interior Minister, and Acting Defence Minister, Socratis Hasikos, on Saturday did not confirm or deny reports that the Sultan of Oman would be donating a navy vessel to Cyprus as a gift.
Hasikos was responding to a story run by daily Philelftheros, where it said that the defence minister of the sultanate, Sayyid Badr Bin Saud Bin Hareb Al-Busaid, sent a letter to former Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou informing him that the sultanate was interested in giving a ship from the Royal Navy of Oman to Cyprus.
The ship, according to the reports, is 61,47m in length and 10,67m wide and it has been used in numerous expeditions. Reportedly the gift is a ‘thank you’ for the warm welcome he received when he visited the island on November 5, 2013.
Fotiou had then said, following a meeting with the Defence Minister of Oman, that they had discussed a framework of collaboration between the two countries on maritime security issues.
The report said the letter sent to Fotiou specified that the ship was to be used to patrol the island’s territorial waters. Fotiou did not immediately return calls on Saturday, while incoming Defence minister Christoforos Fokaides, who takes the reins on Monday, declined to comment, telling the Cyprus Mail that since he had not yet taken over he was not briefed on the issue.
Speaking in his stead, Hasikos said that if Oman wanted to give a ship to Cyprus it would be most welcome.
“We will evaluate everything. As a matter of principle in these cases, we express our gratitude but we still have a long way to go till the gift comes to Cyprus,” the minister said.
Omani ministers and the sultan himself have visited the island on several occasions. Foreign Affairs minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah came to Cyprus on January 17, 2013 to meet with then minister Erato-Kozakou Markoulli while the sultan, Qaboos bin Said Al Said stayed in Limassol for vacation on July 2012.