Lieutenant general George Tsitsikostas, the new head of the National guard, was inducted into his new role at a ceremony at the Presidential palace on Thursday.

Tsitsikostas replaces the outgoing Demokritos Zervakis, who had held the post for three and a half years. He previously served as chief of staff at the headquarters of Nato ground forces and director of the staff office of the president of the EU military commission.

Speaking at the ceremony, President Nikos Christodoulides said “continuing the important work of your predecessor, I invite you to work in a human-centred design and in a spirit of cooperation, with the aim of implementing the government’s policy on defence and security issues”.

He said Cyprus is going through a “difficult period” thanks to “the Turkish occupation which continues for half a century” and because “the Turkish occupying forces are trying to create a new status quo, as witnessed recently in Pyla”.

He added that “the challenges we are faced with require constant vigilance, the maximum readiness, and a constant effort to upgrade the operational capabilities of the National guard”.

He also spoke of the challenges of “a new hybrid warfare”, the geopolitical instability created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the ongoing migrant crisis.

He praised outgoing National guard chief Zervakis, saying he “contributed decisively and with total success to the reorganisation and upgrading of the operational capabilities of the National guard”.

He added that Zervakis’s “contribution to establishing military partnerships at a regional and international level … assisted majorly in promoting the role of the Republic of Cyprus as a pillar of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Additionally, he said he believes Tsitsikostas will “prioritise strengthening security measures at army camps and training sites, modernising laws and regulations governing the military, upgrading training, boosting morale, and improving living facilities of National guard personnel”.

Ttitsikostas himself also spoke, saying he is “fully aware” of the honour of the role he has undertaken.

“I am fully prepared to implement the work assigned to me with the main objective of further strengthening the combat power of the National guard,” he said.

He added that “neither complacency is allowed, nor is there any grace or transition period” in his new role.

“I will do my utmost to fully meet the demands of my duties, obeying the calls of the heroes of the nation and Cyprus”, he said.