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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 08-04-08

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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>




    Minister of Defence Costas Papacostas, in an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, outlines his vision and his priorities regarding the Cypriot armed forces, saying he will work to resolve various pending issues and reduce military service.

    Speaking almost a month after his appointment to the top of the hierarchy of the Ministry of Defence, Papacostas pointed out that the reduction of the military service is feasible and explained how this can be achieved.

    He said that conscripts, once released from the military, can return to the Republics armed services, National Guard, on a voluntary and semi-professional basis.

    Papacostas said that if the military service is reduced to 19 months, the status of the Volunteer Soldier has to be introduced. He also explained that in a 19 month basis military service, soldiers will be out of the National Guard by February. Taking this into account, Papacostas continued, young soldiers could be employed in the National Guard for six months, on contract, as volunteers, until September when most of them go to university.

    However, he pointed out, the status of a Volunteer soldier, will be very different to that of a conscript. As the Minister explained, they will get paid and they will not have to stay in the camps for the whole day.

    Papacostas stressed that the military service can only be reduced gradually. If we are not able, in terms of military capacity, to reduce the service by six months, we may reduce it by two or three, he added.

    The Minister told CNA that he had already given instructions to the National Guard Headquarters to carry out a complete survey. As he said, the final result of that survey will be submitted in three months time.

    The Minister of Defence, referring to his vision, underlines the need to modernise the army and the legislation on promotions and retirement of senior officers and reorganise the reserves.

    The large number of new officers who join the National Guard every year, Papacostas explained, has resulted in a congestion at the higher level of the hierarchy. In order to face this problem, he continued, new measures have to be taken. For example, he said, each officer will be judged for promotion every five or six years instead of four years, which is the case now. By doing that the average number of years within which senior officers are forced to retire will be significantly reduced.

    Asked how he will fight the lack of meritocracy in the army, Papacostas stressed the need for a more anthropocentric approach, saying that if unit commanders and all officers deal with military problems raised by soldiers in a more anthropocentric manner, many of those problems will be immediately solved. In addition, he noted, appointments, transfers and promotions will be more just and fair.

    Speaking on the number of car accidents involving soldiers, Papacostas stated that he has already asked Lieutenant General Costantinos Bisbikas, Chief Commander of the National Guard, to order that heavy army vehicles are driven only by permanent personnel. However, he noted that, according to the statistics, very few army vehicles in Cyprus get involved in car accidents.

    Regarding the opening of the Ledra street crossing point in Nicosia to facilitate movement to and from the islands northern Turkish occupied areas, Papacostas pointed out that the Ministry of Defence will support the agreement reached by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities. I believe, he noted, that we will not face any problem, and that the opening of the crossing point will not hinder the safety of the buffer zone.

    The opening of the crossing point, Papacostas concluded, is a confidence building measure, which will help efforts for a negotiated settlement that would reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.


    Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe held constructive meetings on the Cyprus issue in Athens, Greece on Monday, with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and other senior ministry officials.

    UN Spokeswoman Michelle Montas briefing reporters, quoted Pascoe as saying that he and the Foreign Minister had ``very fruitful talks`` and had agreed to work together to help the people of Cyprus in their efforts at reunification.

    Pascoe was scheduled to arrive in Ankara for talks on Tuesday with Turkey`s Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan, and other officials before joining the Secretary-General`s delegation in Moscow on Wednesday, according to Montas.


    The signing of a memorandum of understanding on air transport between Cyprus and Egypt rounded off bilateral talks at the Ministry of Communications and Works on April 3 and 4, between representatives of the aeronautical authorities of the two countries.

    According to an official press release, the aim of the two sides was to review and update the existing agreement, which was signed in 1969, so that it complies with EU demands and contributes to the further development of bilateral relations in the field of air transport.

    The memorandum was signed by Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communications Makis Constantinides on behalf of the aeronautical authorities of Cyprus and Nagy Saleh on behalf of the aeronautical authorities of Egypt, in the presence of Minister of Communications and Works Nicos Nicolaides and Egyptian Ambassador in Nicosia Ahmed Ibrahim Ragheb.

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