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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 11-09-07

Cyprus News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>




    Director of Ordnance at the National Guard General Staff Colonel Lambrou and Head of Ordnance Directorate of the National Guard General Staff Lieutenant Colonel Nicos Georgiades, both of whom have been suspended, and Architect at the Project Department of the Ministry of Defence Panayiotis Stylianides, appeared on Wednesday before the Commission of Inquiry, set up by the Council of Ministers to look into the circumstances that led to a massive explosion at a naval base, which killed 13 people and injured dozens.

    Testifying before the Commission, Lambrou said former Chief of Staff Petros Tsalikides, who resigned after the incident, had been informed that one of the containers of munitions had caught fire and should have realised the gravity of the situation.

    He added that there must have been orders to transport the containers to the specific site and stack them on a concrete base however he did not have such an order in mind.

    To questions by Polyviou, Lambrou said the Ordnance Directorate had an expert who was not called in to examine the content of the cargo, when it was placed at the naval base, not even after the first explosion on July 4.

    He also explained that he had received orders to inspect the confiscated cargo in February 2009 however he did not know who had given orders to transport the cargo to the naval base.

    Lambrou said that samples of the munitions were sent to Greece for thermal testing, which takes up to 80 days, adding that he heard that the state laboratory had carried out tests. However, he noted, the state laboratory did not refer to thermal tests, which are specialised tests for gunpowder and explosives.

    Testifying before the Commission, Nicos Georgiades said Colonel George Georgiades told former Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Savvas Argyrou, just days before the explosion, that ``if I were you I would order a red alert.``

    He also said former Minister of Defence Costas Papacostas had perceived the dangerousness of the cargo but former Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Kyprianou had suggested testing the gunpowder in an effort to buy time.

    Replying to questions by Polyviou, Nicos Georgiades said that George Georgiades had been assigned the task to unload the cargo and store it.

    ``He told me he was speaking with the Presidential palace, the Minister (of Defence) and that there was absolute secrecy and he could not tell me anything else,`` Nicos Georgiades said.

    Asked if George Georgiades had said he was speaking directly with the President of the Republic, Nicos Georgiades said he had.

    Replying to questions about the meeting of 7 February 2011 at the Ministry of Defence, Nicos Georgiades said he had participated in the meeting due to the absence of George Georgiades. Asked if he remembered anything that had made a lasting impression, Nicos Georgiades said ``the Minister of Defence, who was sitting next to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, turned to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and said, hey Marcos you dumped this on me and pulled back.`` Polyviou asked if he considered this a reference to the cargo and Nicos Georgiades said he did.

    According to Nicos Georgiades, Papacostas spoke about the ``destabilising nature of the cargo`` and was trying to convince the participants in the meeting that the cargo was hazardous. He added that then Kyprianou analysed the political and financial aspects of the issue, with discussions ranging from where the money would go from a possible sale of the munitions and VAT issues, inter alia, and that Kyprianou said he wanted to buy time.

    Nicos Georgiades said Tsalikides also pointed out the dangers from storing the cargo, making special reference to weather conditions. He added that Papacostas tried to bring discussions back to the hazards and called on George Georgiades to present the dangers. Nicos Georgiades, who was standing in for George Georgiades, said that, according to relevant manuals, temperature, humidity and time adversely affect the cargo.

    He also said Kyprianou suggested that samples be tested for any deterioration and investigations be made into possible buyers. Nicos Georgiades pointed out to Kyprianou that these were time consuming procedures and that the containers were for transporting the munitions, not storing them.

    Asked how Kyprianou reacted, Nicos Georgiades said it appeared to suit him, since he wanted to buy time anyway. He added that Director of the President`s Diplomatic Office Leonidas Pantelides said the cargo should be separated into hazardous and non dangerous and the UN contacted to see if the cargo could be destroyed, and the meeting ended there.

    To questions regarding Papacostas` reaction, Nicos Georgiades said he pointed out the time consuming procedures and questioned those present if they realised how high temperatures could reach during the summer.


    The President of the European People`s Party (EPP), Wilfried Martens, has reacted strongly to statements by Turkish officials against EU member Cyprus regarding the start of oil and gas exploration by Cyprus.

    ``I am very surprised by the recent statements of Turkish officials against an EU member state, said Martens. Turkey, an EU candidate country must refrain from threats against an EU member state that also undermine EU`s energy security,`` underlined the EPP President.

    Turkish threats over Cyprus plans to start oil and gas exploration in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by the American contractor `Noble` have escalated over the past weeks.

    ``Needless to say, Cyprus is a European pillar of stability in the eastern Mediterranean and, as such, will play a central role in bolstering EU`s energy security,`` Martens added.


    Cypriot Minister of Finance Kikis Kazamias has expressed satisfaction and reserved optimism over an announcement by Standard and Poor`s, which on September 5 said its final decision on the evaluation of Cyprus` economy would be taken with the assessment of the second package of fiscal consolidation and structural measures, to be tabled at the House of Representatives.

    Kazamias said this announcement indicates that Cyprus` evaluation could be stabilised and a further ``painful`` downgrading could be avoided with the second package of measures.

    He noted that the Ministry of Finance was calling on all parties to continue to cooperate so that Cyprus` collective efforts to recover from the crisis could succeed.

    Kazamias reminded that Standard and Poor`s downgraded Cyprus` credit index last month to BBB+ and noted that its final decision would be taken on September 5.


    The Czech Republic supports a Cyprus solution, on the basis of EU common values and UN Security Council resolutions, newly-appointed Czech Ambassador in Nicosia, Ladislav Skerik said today.

    Skerik was speaking after a meeting with Minister of Labour and Social Insurance Sotiroula Charalambous, with whom he discussed issues of social policy and the potential of cooperation, on the occasion of Cyprus EU Presidency, during the second semester of 2012.

    We are inaugurating yet another chapter of deeper relations between Cyprus and the Czech Republic, Charalambous noted.

    She added that, during the meeting, the two sides traded information on the current situation in the labour market and on existing problems, in both countries.

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