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Cyprus ‘ready and willing’ to be safe transfer hub in Middle East

Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides at the Argonaftis exercise in Larnaca on Thursday

The government is willing and ready to assume the responsibility to create a safe transfer hub in the complex region of the Middle East, Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said on Thursday.

Addressing the final phase of the multinational exercise Argonaut/ESTIA at Larnaca port, Christodoulides said: “Cyprus, due to its geographical position, has an important role to play as a safe transfer hub,” he said. “The government… is willing and ready to assume this responsibility to secure the interests of our close partners and for the benefit of the international community.”

Christodoulides said the two-day table-top exercise, coordinating the procedures of the National Plan ESTIA and of the Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations Coordination Group (also known as NEO), which presently comprises 19 member nations, plus the EEAS, aimed to test and improve preparedness in a non-crisis environment.

He also recalled that 13 years ago, Cyprus was used for the first time as a “safe haven” for an evacuation operation of civilians during the Lebanon crisis of 2006, adding that while there was no actual contingency plan at that time, the Republic’s services responded in a timely and effective way to tackle the influx of nearly 60,000 civilian evacuees, gaining the trust and appreciation of international partners.

“We believe that contingency planning is not supposed to remain in dark drawers. It must be scrutinised and further improved through drills and joint brainstorming,” he said, adding that this was the prime purpose of the Argonaut exercise; to test, assess and improve existing action plans in order to be ready for a real emergency. Being fully prepared is half the way to a successful operation, which at times of crisis, can save human lives and alleviate the pain for those suffering, Christodoulides said.

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