Cyprus Mail

Cutting down on munitions risk is army priority

Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides

By Stefanos Evripidou

REDUCING the risks in munitions’ use by the National Guard (NG) is a top priority, new defence minister Christoforos Fokaides said yesterday, in his first official appearance at the House Defence Committee.

Fokaides, sworn in last Monday, promised full transparency in the investigation into last week’s incident when an 18-year-old conscript had his hand blown off by a grenade that exploded prematurely at the Asgata firing range, near Kalavasos.

The grenade was part of a batch ordered from Egypt in 2007 and delivered in 2009. A 38-year-old staff sergeant was also injured in the frag grenade explosion.

National Guard commander Stylianos Nasis told the committee the investigation report will be ready on April 15.

The committee also heard that the staff sergeant has been released from hospital, while the young soldier remains in intensive care.

Fokaides said his top priority was to reduce the risks involved in using munitions, noting that every mother who sends her child to the army must feel that the state is taking all measures for her child’s security.

He said experts would be called in to assist in defining the regulations associated with use of military equipment for training purposes.

Suggesting this did not already exist, Fokaides also announced plans to develop a specific action plan that would establish safety regulations for procurement procedures, munitions specifications, maintenance, medical and all other safety parameters.

A unit of the State Laboratory will also be ready in the coming months to test ammunition, he said, adding that within two years, a new lab could be set up for this.

Despite the economic crisis, funding must be found to acquire more ambulances and more doctors, the new minister said.

On taking office, Fokaides pledged that once the investigation into the incident was completed, the file would be sent to the Attorney-general’s office to examine whether criminal liability exists “in the interests of full transparency”.

He called for national consensus on issues related to defence. Once he is fully briefed on his portfolio, Fokaides said he plans to hold contacts with the parties to formulate a common national strategy on modernising, restructuring and re-organising the National Guard.

“On issues of defence we need to work not as political opponents but political partners,” he said.
Committee chair Giorgos Varnavas said the committee awaits answers to a number of questions posed to the minister, such as the measures for the proper storage of munitions used for training, the adequacy of ambulances, doctors and paramedic staff located at the training area.

DISY deputy Andreas Michaelides suggested the state should consider leasing ambulances from the private sector.

Related Posts

Cyprus falls on Corruption Perceptions Index

Elias Hazou

Planned projects will change the face of Limassol

Anna Savva

MPs close in on paternity leave rules

Elias Hazou

Island’s energy market set to open up in the autumn

Antigoni Pitta

Spokesman confirms first direct flight to Turkey taken place

Antigoni Pitta

Four sentences for workplace safety violations in Limassol in 2021

Antigoni Pitta

1 comment

Comments are closed.