The government will keep modernising the armed forces so that they remain a potent deterrent, Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides said on Monday.
He was speaking after presenting to MPs the ministry’s budget for 2021, beefed up by approximately €70 million compared to 2020.
Outlining the ministry’s strategies, Petrides highlighted the series of bilateral defence cooperation arrangements made with countries in the eastern Mediterranean and beyond.
He noted in particular the “upgraded relationship” with United States, following the latter’s temporary lifting of an embargo on the sale of weapons – non-lethal only – to Cyprus.
Other important aspects include Cyprus’ participation in the Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Defence Industrial Development programme.
Efforts meanwhile are underway to better track down – with help from the police – individuals avoiding reservist duty.
Criticism came from main opposition Akel, with MP Costas Costa, who focused on the resignation of a number of contract soldiers – a programme introduced to replenish personnel after the reduction in the duration of the military stint for conscripts.
Costa said the government had gone ahead with this arrangement, without consulting parliament, and that MPs are still waiting for the administration to table the legislative regulations governing the employment terms for contract soldiers.
The Akel deputy also called for the closure of the shooting range in Tseri – due to safety concerns among locals – and the creation of a new range in another location.
Another issue relates to the government having awarded one private company the contract to supply about one-quarter of meals to soldiers.
Akel reiterated their call on the government to cut the length of military service for certain categories, such as soldiers with parents with disabilities, soldiers from large families, and soldiers orphaned by father’s or mother’s death.