|Sunday, 17 December 2017|
Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 11-09-06
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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <http://www.cyna.org.cy>
 BLAST INCIDENTS - COMMISSION OF INQUIRY - PRESIDENTPresident of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias spoke of ``wrong diagnosis`` and ``misjudgment of the perils`` on behalf of those in charge, regarding the dangerousness of 98 containers of munitions that exploded at the ``Evangelos Florakis`` Naval Base, near Limassol, killing 13 people and destroying the island`s main power plant.
He also said that he had not been informed about the handling and the dangerousness of the containers of munitions which exploded at the ``Evangelos Florakis`` Naval Base, near Limassol, killing 13 people and destroying the island`s main power plant.
President Christofias appeared before a Commission of Inquiry, set up by the Cabinet, to look into the circumstances that have led to a massive explosion at Cyprus Naval Base, near Limassol on July 11th, 2011.
In his introductory remarks before the Commission of Inquiry into the explosion, under Polys Polyviou, President Christofias said the explosion was a failure of the system, built over decades, and said the tragedy concerned the political decision on the handling of the munitions and the handling of the cargo itself.
He said he had not been informed about the meeting of 7 February 2011 on the possibility of destroying the cargo, or the one on 7 July 2011, a week before the blast, when the danger was obvious, or about the request of the UN Sanctions Committee to visit Cyprus to inspect the cargo.
President Christofias said there had been a ``wrong diagnosis regarding the dangerousness of the cargo`` and also a ``misjudgment of the perils`` on behalf of those in charge, adding that measures would have been taken if only he had known the dangers.
Opening his statement, President Christofias expressed sorrow and grief over the deadly blast of July 11, and offered his condolences to the relatives of the victims, who observe the Commission`s hearings.
President Christofias then referred to the events that led to the confiscation of the cargo of ``Monchegorsk``, a vessel sailing from Iran to Syria in 2009. Nicosia was acting in accordance with UN sanctions against Tehran.
He said that the Republic of Cyprus acted in line with UN resolutions, noting that Cyprus, part of which is under Turkish occupation and is itself a victim of the violation of international law, could not violate UN Security Council decisions.
The President also referred to the reaction of Syria, which demanded that the ship be released otherwise Cyprus` relations with the Arab world would be affected.
``Our wish was to find a way so that the cargo did not remain in Cyprus,`` he said, adding that despite efforts the munitions remained in Cyprus and that he himself had acted with the public interests in mind.
He said ``this was a correct political decision and, based on the international and political facts before us, it was the only option we had.``
President Christofias said another main concern was the safety of the cargo and that, since the national interest imposed the confiscation of the cargo, during a meeting on 6 February 2009 at the Presidential Palace, there had been assurances that officers could properly handle the munitions.
Furthermore, he said that he agreed with a suggestion that the possibility of destroying the gunpowder be examined.
Regarding the storage and management of the munitions, President Christofias said that the responsibility was given to those who had the expertise to handle the cargo, namely the National Guard.
``To me it is clear that the whole incident was a failure of the system,`` he said, adding that deficiencies in control cause phenomena of negligence, procrastination and fear of responsibility.
He added that he was not briefed on meetings in early 2011 on the possibility of destroying the munitions or a week before the explosion regarding the imminent danger.
Furthermore, he said he was not informed about the fact that the UN Sanctions Committee wished to inspect the cargo.
``In retrospect, of course, one can easily judge, as many do. However, had I been informed about the dangers by those in charge of storing the cargo, especially after the incident on July 4, when the problem was determined, I assure you that all necessary measures would have been taken,`` he said.
President Christofias also complained that since the deadly blast he had been treated in such a way that insulted the institutions and democracy.
``I am referring to insults and jeering, especially the efforts of some people to judge and condemn, either on television or in kangaroo courts,`` he said.
He added that he had endured that period with the certainty that ``the time will come when the truth will shine.``
Replying to questions by Polyviou, President Christofias recalled that Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs, Costas Papacostas and Markos Kyprianou respectively, had, after the blast, undertaken their political responsibilities and resigned, adding that if he had been informed about the situation he would also undertake his responsibilities.
Polyviou asked President Christofias whether he was informed about a meeting which took place on February 7th, 2011, with the participation of former Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs, which, according to Polyviou, was a particularly important meeting, during which concerns were raised about the possibility of a blast.
President Christofias replied that he was not informed about the meeting, nor was he informed about the meeting which took place on the 5th of July, 2011, only a few days before the deadly blast.
Asked by Polyviou whether between February 7th, 2011, and July 5th, 2011, he had been informed about the dangerousness of the containers and the possibility of a blast occurring there, he replied negatively.
Polyviou said that according to a testimony before his Commission, between January 2011 and July 2011 a team of experts of the UN Sanctions Committee was requesting to visit Cyprus to inspect the cargo, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was actually preventing such a visit, and asked the President whether he was informed about this.
No, I had no information. I am sorry about this but unfortunately I was not informed, he replied.
Polyviou went on to say that President Christofias was not kept informed about very important aspects of the issue, and asked the President whether, being the President of the state, he was obliged to be informed, irrespective of the fact that his Ministers or aides, were not keeping him informed.
I was interested about the issue but unfortunately some people undertook the responsibility to handle it without informing the President of the Republic, he said.
Responding to another question, President Christofias agreed that the former Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs as well as the former Chief of Staff of the National Guard bear the political responsibility for the tragedy at the Naval Base.
President Christofias said that he was not aware that the Naval Base was so close to the islands main power plant of Vassilikos, which was badly destroyed by the explosion, adding that if he knew he would not have allowed that the cargo be kept there.
Furthermore, he said that the decision to keep the cargo at the Naval Base was not taken by himself, but by the military.
He also said that no foreign country expressed readiness to accept the cargo.
Replying to questions, President Christofias said that since the first meeting which took place on the matter, he strongly raised the issue of safety as regards the keeping of the cargo.
Asked if he would undertake the institutional responsibility as regards the failure of the system, the wrong handlings and the obvious errors on behalf of the Ministers, President Christofias said indirectly I am responsible, like every President, for actions and delinquencies of Ministers, the system in general, indirectly, of course.
To a question whether he accepts personal, direct responsibility for the tragedy, he said No, with all your respect, I do not accept such a responsibility.
Replying to Polyvious questions, President Christofias said that those in charge underestimated the danger, adding that he was being told that the dangerousness was minor or that the cargo could even be kept in a residential area, so why should I undertake the responsibility?.
Those who were responsible to inform us about the content of the cargo told us that it was gunpowder and that gunpowder is not dangerous, he concluded.
 CYPRUS LEADERS - NEW MEETINGPresident Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu meet on Tuesday, in the context of UN-led direct talks to solve the Cyprus problem.
The meeting will take place at the residence of the UN Secretary General`s Special Representative in Cyprus Liza Buttenheim, in the UN-protected area in Nicosia.
During their last meeting on Friday, the leaders presented documents on property and territory issues and agreed that it would be productive for their representatives to take on the discussion in relation to these documents to ensure not just clarifications but with a view to come into convergences.
UN Secretary General`s Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer on Monday visited Athens where during a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lamprinides he discussed recent developments in the Cyprus issue.
He expressed the view that it is possible to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem, but noted that great efforts are needed to be made on behalf of both sides in Cyprus to bridge their differences, which, as he pointed out, continue to remain.
The UN envoy said that next Wednesday he would be discussing the Cyprus issue with the UN Security Council via a telecommunications link up.
Christofias and Eroglu are due to have a third meeting with the UN Secretary General in October, in New York. In their previous meeting, in July, they agreed to intensify the pace of the talks.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The leaders of the two communities are currently engaged in UN-led talks, with an aim to reunify the island under a federal roof.
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