By Jean Christou
NEW Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides was sworn in on Monday during a ceremony at the presidential palace.
Fokaides. 40, replaces Tasos Mistopoulos who died suddenly last month at the age of 48.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Nicos Anastasiades said Fokaides was undertaking a position that was of vital importance for the country. He also spoke of the ongoing plan to modernise the National Guard and the planned reduction in the length of military service.
Fokaides responded that he would do his utmost to meet the expectations of the post.
Later at the ministry, Fokaides said defence should be dealt with away from partisan agendas, interference and squabbling and said the safety of personnel was a top priority for him.
“To this end we will work to bring about any changes that might be required at all levels,” he said. “There will be a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to negligence or omissions that directly or indirectly endanger the lives of our personnel.”
He specifically mentioned last week’s incident when a young soldier had his hand blown off by a grenade that exploded prematurely. Once the investigation into the incident was completed, the file would be sent to the Attorney-general’s office, he said, “in the interests of full transparency” in case there was a criminal case to answer.
In addition, all military hardware used for training purposes would be inspected by experts on the instructions of the president, Fokaides said.
“It is our responsibility to create the right conditions so that every mother can trust that the state will take all the necessary measures to minimise any inherent risks in the use of military equipment,” he added.
Fokaides said he looked forward to close cooperation with all political forces “away from partisan agendas, party intervention and squabbling”.
“We will not counter any mismanagement or corruption,” he said.
“The members of the armed forces, men and women should be models of honesty and consistency . This was Tassos Mitsopoulos’ compass and it will be our compass,” the new minister said.
“The best way to honour his memory is to follow his example.”
A member of ruling DISY, Fokaides studied economics and political science. He lectured in politics at the EuropeanUniversity of Cyprus.