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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 11-08-17

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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>




    The confiscation of nearly 100 containers in 2009, packed with munitions destined for Syria, has been a very sensitive issue which related to the Republics vital interests, according to Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou.

    Stephanou dismissed allegations that the government had intended to send the contents of the seized containers to Damascus, in violation of UN sanctions, recalling that at the time of the seizure Nicosia had to deal with different political and diplomatic issues on various fronts.

    The Spokesman pointed out that the government was in continuous communication with both the EU and the UN on the matter, while the seized cargo of Monchegorsk vessel was on the island. It exploded on July 11.

    Stephanou described as unacceptable repeated leaks of confidential papers to the press with regard to the massive explosion which killed 13 people and injured many, calling for patience until the investigations into the matter are completed.

    Speaking at his press briefing, the Government Spokesman described as unacceptable tactic the leakage of documents concerning the confiscated munitions of the Monchegorsk vessel that exploded last month killing 13 people and damaging the islands main power plant.

    He also condemned the criticism that the document proves that the President had knowledge of the contents of the 98 confiscated containers.

    The daily Simerini newspaper published a report on Wednesday, citing a confidential document on the conversation of President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad had in September 2009.

    In the document, President Christofias is said to be assuring Assad that the cargo will not be given to anyone and will remain in Cyprus until its return to Syria or Iran is secured.

    Commenting on the document, the Spokesman said there is an effort to replace the investigative procedure underway, referring to the one-man investigation commission, set up by the government, that is examining the circumstances that have led to the massive explosion of the contents of the Monchegorsk containers.

    Thirteen people were killed and dozens were injured when the massive explosion occurred at the naval base, Evangelos Florakis, near Limassol, on the southern coast, in the early hours of July 11th. The blast badly damaged the islands main power plant, at Vasiliko, resulting in regular power cuts.

    A one-man investigation commission, set up by the government, is already examining the circumstances that have led to the massive explosion. The commission member Polis Polyviou has announced that public hearings will begin on August 29 and did not rule out the possibility of summoning President Christofias and members of his office to testify.

    The procedure must be allowed to be completed and its findings should be respected, said Stephanou.

    He said the publication of excerpts does not allow drawing safe conclusions. On the contrary, it leads to wrong conclusions and misinformation. The only safe way to draw secure conclusions is the overall evaluation of the material, which is currently underway by the investigative commission. We express our support to the commission which will indicate where responsibilities lie.

    The Cypriot Spokesman said that if the government had intended to send the contents of the vessel to Syria, then it would not have confiscated it as it did, acting in line with UN sanctions against Iran.

    The issue with the vessel was very sensitive and important for the Republics vital interests, especially for the Cyprus issue, and should have been handled very carefully, he pointed out.

    He recalled that during 2009, efforts were underway to end a scheduled sea route from Latakia, Syria, to the northern Turkish occupied part of Cyprus and to handle Turkeys political and diplomatic manoeuvres via Syria and the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

    Stephanou further said the government has been in constant communication with both the UN Security Council and the European Union, following the seizure of the vessel, adding that reports that other players had offered to assist Cyprus on the matter were general and not specific.

    The greatest political responsibility, the Spokesman added, is to solve the problems caused by the fatal explosion at Mari, including the economic fallout.

    Asked if the President will be asked to testify before the commission, the Spokesman said President Christofias had told Polyviou to do whatever he deems necessary to reach a conclusion to the investigation.

    Regarding the demonstrations organized by Cypriot citizens, who call themselves Indignants - in memory of the victims killed during last months explosion of the munitions - and counterdemonstrations, the Spokesman replied that the government is not organizing anti-demonstrations, noting everyone has the right to organize demonstrations or gatherings, with respect to institutions and the private life of every citizen, be that the President or any other citizen.

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