Cyprus’ defence ministry signed a letter of intent with the US’s New Jersey National Guard on Thursday, to be inducted into the state partnership program (SPP).
Under the program, Cypriot military will cooperate with the New Jersey National Guard on a variety of issues, including maritime security, counterterrorism, search and rescue, and other fields.
The letter of intent was signed by the Chief of the National Guard, Lieutenant General Demokritos Zervakis and the Adjutant General of the National Guard of the State of New Jersey, Brigadier General Lisa J. Hou, in the presence of Defence Minister Michalis Giorgallas and US Ambassador Julie Fisher, as part of an official visit to Cyprus by New Jersey officials.
The ceremony was attended by political and military leadership from Cyprus and high-ranking officials from New Jersey, as well as by the principal director for Europe and Nato Policy of the US Office of the Secretary of Defense, Andrew L. Winternitz.
Through the program, the cooperation between the New Jersey National Guard and the Cyprus National Guard is initiated, which aims to develop expertise and capabilities in specific fields, including communications and intelligence, cyber defence, military medical procedures, explosive ordnance disposal, military police procedures, training and leadership development, support to disaster response, and search and rescue.
Speaking at the event, Giorgallas said: “This event is the culmination of a process that began in 2020, when the Republic of Cyprus expressed its interest in joining the state partnership program of the department of defence of the US.”
He added that they have attempted to strengthen their relationship over the last few years through various actions, which included also the lifting of the US arms embargo on Cyprus for lethal and non-lethal weapons.
“In recent years, Cyprus had been implementing a dynamic defence policy. We promote closer regional defence cooperation with the US, the EU member states, and our regional neighbours,” he said.
The minister said that the government was happy about their acceptance into the SPP.
US Ambassador to Cyprus Julie D. Fisher, while addressing the ceremony, said that this program is one of the most effective security cooperation programs of the US that work in Europe today. Cyprus and Norway, as she noted, are among the newest relationships included in this program and “it seems appropriate that New Jersey with its state model liberty and prosperity will make today this important partnership with the Republic of Cyprus official.”
“I am sure that this collaboration will promote our shared values and build resilience for the work on military, security and disaster response means we undertake together. The state partnership program will allow us to share knowledge on a range of issues, including maritime security, counterterrorism, and natural disaster response”, she said, adding that these are issues of regional significance and the coordination and the results from this partnership will have a far-reaching positive impact beyond the island of Cyprus.
Adjutant General of the New Jersey National Guard, Lisa J. Hou, said that the application for state partnership with Cyprus has been accepted by the US Department of State and supported by the National Guard bureau.
As she said, the state partnership program enriches allies and institutions of those being involved, noting that in 1993, the US begun the state partnership program with 13 partnerships, and this year Cyprus is among the new group of nations that raises the program to 100 countries involved.
She also said that the Republic of Cyprus is already a partner of the US that works to promote regional stability, security, and prosperity.
Zervakis said that this is a significant moment for the history of the National Guard of the Republic of Cyprus. “It is an honour and privilege to be part of this program. Our defence cooperation with the US now includes military education of our officers, important multinational military exercises, training between our special forces and exchange of personnel”, he said.
According to information from the US Embassy, these agreements have been made with a variety of countries and matches military organisations from various US states with countries, on a comparable size, mission, and focus basis.
In an announcement about Cyprus’ acceptance to the programme back in October, the New Jersey national guard said that this selection demonstrates the growing partnership between the two governments on maritime security, counterterrorism, and natural disaster and emergency response.
Cyprus is New Jersey’s second SPP partner, it recently marked 21 years of partnership with the Republic of Albania.