I would like to welcome you today at the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre and Zenon Coordination Center premises for the final phase of our flagship Multinational civ-mil Exercise ARGONAUT. We are gratified that we were able to resume this important Exercise after a two year hiatus due to the COVID19 pandemic. It is so good to see so many participating and observer countries that took part with military means or personnel.
I want to convey the Republic of Cyprus appreciation for all partner countries that have participated to this Exercise from its planning phase to its conduct. Through the various phases of the Exercises important lessons learned will be drowned that will make our contingency planning and interoperability more robust and strong.
ARGONAUT is a multi-faceted exercise, which since itsinception fifteen years ago has been established as one of the most prominent and leading civil-military Exercises internationally dealing with non-combatant evacuation operations. Over the last decade we have created long standing partnerships with many countries and I am pleased to see that there is still growing interest from new countries to engage for this exercise.
This year we have 15 countries from the NEO Coordination Group that participated in the NEO phase of the Exercise, 8 countries that are taking part in the Search and Rescue phase as well as the EU ‘s External Action Service and the UN.
Allow me to highlight the fact that for the first time Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia participate to this years Exercise with military means and a high level observer’s delegation respectively.
It is also important to mention that this Exercise contributes immensely to our preparedness and readiness to deal with severe crisis incidents and emergency situations within the area of the Eastern Mediterranean, with the implementation of the national plans “ESTIA” and “TEFKROS”.
The exercise commenced on Tuesday with the activation and evaluation of the national Plan “ESTIA”. In the past two days, other phases of the “ESTIA” plan were practiced at other locations around Cyprus, and notably for the first time at the Port of Limassol. More than 150 participants from abroad were exercised alongside 18 Cyprus government departments and agencies and 17 Resident Embassies in Cyprus took part at the table top Exercise at the Port of Limassol.
In today’s final phase, we will observe the final phase of the exercise, is combined with the Search and Rescue phase of the exercise. JRCC Larnaca is a valuable asset for both Cyprus and region for providing critical support for Search and Rescue cooperation and coordination. I want to express my appreciation to all countries participating with assets and personnel for this year’s final phase, namely Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
It is broadly accepted that the effectiveness of all the agencies involved in the wider field of aviation and maritime safety is an objective to be continuously pursued and this is where the importance of this exercise lies. «ARGONAUT 2022», was a great opportunity for improving preparedness and refresh our conduct and planning to deal with any humanitarian crisis situation in the region.
Moreover, I am absolutely confident that the cooperation with all participating countries will continue and be further improved - at all levels - to the benefit of our common interests. Cyprus is located in an area of perpetual turmoil and instability and there is always the possibility of a conflict or a crisis. Hence we have to remain vigilant, able and ready to facilitate our friends and allies for dealing with crisis situations and provide safe havenfor those affected.
Taking this opportunity, I want to underline that the Republic of Cyprus is willing and ready to assume this responsibility to secure the interests of our close partners and for the benefit of the international community. Our infrastructures and facilities will always be at the disposal of our partners for providing assistance for humanitarian and crisis situations.
I would be remiss in not thanking our very own personnel and colleagues from the numerous Ministries and Agencies that have made this Exercise possible.
In closing allow me once again to express my profound appreciation for your countries commitment in working with the Republic of Cyprus for a successful ARGONAUT 2022. I hope that you enjoyed your stay in Cyprus and we are looking forward welcoming you in ARGONAUT 2023!
Thank you very much.