Strengthening the operational capacity and deterrence capability of the National Guard is a “key priority”, said the Minister of Defence, Charalambos Petrides, on Friday.

Speaking at the passing out ceremony for the 2022 intake of enlisted soldiers training programme at the “Ilias Papakyriakou” camp in Athalassa, Petrides noted that for this year’s budget is at its highest for the last 20 years.

“We are living in a period full of challenges and tensions in the eastern Mediterranean region, with Turkey having engaged in a crescendo of provocative actions that endanger security and peace,” Petridis said

The Defence Ministry has set as a “key priority” the strengthening of the operational capacity and deterrence capability of the National Guard. The equipment programme that has been drawn up in collaboration with the Greek Defence Ministry is being implemented gradually, in a continuous effort to upgrade the National Guard against threats coming from land, sea and air, he added.

“Our intention is also confirmed by the fact that defence spending has increased in recent years. For this year the budget is at the highest economic level of the last 20 years”, said Petrides.

He added that, in addition to upgrading the capabilities of the Defence Force, they have simultaneously strengthened the government’s defence policy.

“In this direction, we developed bilateral and tripartite cooperation in the fields of defence and security with 16 regional and European countries, quadrilateral cooperation with Greece, Italy and France, but also cooperation with other important actors in the region, such as the USA, the United Kingdom and the Germany,” he added.

The Minister also referred to the “vision, on the one hand, to play a more substantial role in the efforts to create conditions of cooperation, security, peace and stability in the region, while on the other hand, to make the Eastern Mediterranean an area of interest for the EU”.

To achieve this vision, he said, the National Guard will continue to be strengthened and modernised, so that it can cope with the new conditions and successfully respond to the needs and modern challenges.