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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 11-10-03

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

From: The Cyprus News Agency at <http://www.cyna.org.cy>


CONTENTS

  • [01] MARI BLAST - REPORT
  • [02] PRESIDENT - BLAST REPORT - DISSMISAL
  • [03] CYPRUS AIR SPACE - TURKEY - VIOLATIONS

  • [01] MARI BLAST - REPORT

    The President of the Republic bears grave personal responsibilities concerning the tragic blast incident at the naval base Evaggelos Florakis, at Mari, and its repercussions, Commission of Inquiry Head Polys Polyviou said.

    Following the incident, last July, the Cabinet appointed a single-member inquiry commission, headed by Polyviou, to investigate events which led to the deadly explosion and allocate political responsibilities.

    Speaking to the press, following the publication of his report, in the presence of relatives of blast victims, Polyviou presented the conclusions of his report, saying that ex Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou and ex Defense Minister Costas Papacostas are also burdened with very serious responsibilities, both institutional and personal ones.

    He added that the main responsibility, however, belongs to the President of the Republic, who is heading the state and the government.

    Polyviou also said that part of his report also deals with criminal and disciplinary responsibilities, but said that he wouldnt announce names, out of respect for the criminal investigation.

    He said however that there is no doubt that serious criminal offences have been committed , including homicide, adding that the Republics Attorney General would need to investigate the possibility of committing such offenses by those responsible, sparing no one.

    Moreover, Polyviou dismissed charges against former Navy Chief and Base Commander, who died both during the blast, noting that their effort to keep away soldiers from the cargo site, while trying themselves to avert disaster until the last moment, along with few security personnel and firefighters, constitutes a display of impulsive heroism.

    After presenting the events prior to the explosion, as noted in his report, Polyviou said that President Christofias was in overall command and had the governing power to determine the outcome concerning the handling of the incident. As he put it, the President bears the greatest responsibility for the failure, negligence and carelessness, which was displayed, and has therefore the greatest responsibility for what happened.

    Moreover, Polyviou said that management of the containers, containing the confiscated explosives, belonged to the executive power, but added that the executive power, which is headed by the President of the Republic, failed miserably to take the necessary measures while dealing with the matter, including the provisions concerning the safe storage of the cargo in Cyprus.

    He added that, given the importance of the issue and the increased risk of explosion, of which President Christofias was or should have been aware, taking measures to protect the interests of the state and its citizens was absolutely necessary.

    This preventive action, he went on, should have been taken, regardless of foreign policy-related issues, that arise after the meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, on August 31, 2009.

    Polyviou continued by saying that the matter should not have been left for more that two years, following discussions among committees and between representatives of various government departments, without any coordination or outcome.

    It should have been obvious to the President that usual bureaucratic procedures should not have applied in this case, given the cargos risk, Polyviou added. He noted that the President had undertaken the management of the dangerous cargo, by retaining supreme control over it, both in real terms as well as in the eyes of all involved.

    Furthermore, he said that the President was responsible for taking the major decisions on the matter, and his decisions and policies led to the cargos prolonged stay in Cyprus, under unacceptable storage conditions.

    The Presidents actions and decisions meet by no means the minimum level of diligence required, Polyviou went on, adding that the President failed to provide for or take at least basic safety precautions to protect Cypriot citizens and especially soldiers and firemen.

    When the cargo arrived in Cyprus, Polyviou noted that all potentially involved parties should have taken notice of its content, something that finally never happened.

    Concerning the containers storage location, the Head of the Inquiry Commission said that no sufficient explanation has been given for choosing the particular area deposit the load.

    He added that the cargo had been dispensed in a site belonging to the National Guard, for more than two years, under completely and challengingly insecure conditions.

    The fact that the cargo had been deposited in a storage location with inexcusable negligence and complete disregard, should have been known to the Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs, as well as to the President of the Republic, according to Polyviou.

    He added that no concrete mechanisms or procedures have been in place, while the issue was not discussed in Cabinet. In those cases where dangers emanating from the cargo were predicted, Polyviou noted that vague and unsubstantiated political excuses prevailed, resulting to the continuation of the unacceptable conditions.

    Concerning political balances with Syria, Polyviou said that he accepted the Presidents assurance that he had no intention of returning the cargo to Damascus, he noted however that the President and the Ministers in charge were aware of the fact that containers were being stored in an unprotected area within a National Guard camp site.

    Moreover, he said that they knew the issue was becoming more and more acute with the passage of time, saying that this finding constitutes by itself res ipsa loquitur, i.e. the matter speaks for itself.

    This, he went on, entails unrelenting institutional and personal responsibility, both for the Ministers for Defense and Foreign Affairs, as well as for the President of the Republic.

    Polyviou also referred to Cyprus refusal to accept assistance offered by other states, and added that the Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs were filibustering, because of inactivity, negligence and irresponsible handling at the highest state and government level.

    The government proved completely inadequate while handling a matter of high importance, Polyviou went on, adding that when one of the containers exploded, a few days prior to the tragic blast, instead of taking immediate action, the response was again a display of an unprecedented confusion, inaction and negligence.

    The Head of the inquiry commission said that instead of evacuating the naval base and the surrounding area and taking measures that would mitigate the danger, a complete chaos prevailed.

    Polyviou also said that the response of the Fire Department was particularly inadequate, adding that it had not been briefed prior to July 6, 2011, a few days before the blast, and as a result did not take any measures to prevent the accident or to educate its staff on how to deal with such incidents.

    He noted that naval base officers in charge were also never completely briefed on the content of the cargo or the dangers it was posing, adding that they did not have access to the containers but were only charged with its security. Therefore, he said, they were not in position to deal with any problems that might arise, like a blast incident.

    Polyviou referred finally to the responsibilities of the political leadership, and especially of those of ex Foreign Minister Kyprianou, concerning the non arrival of the UN experts group that was responsible for examining the cargo.

    He also identified responsibilities for not issuing a definite order for the cargos destruction, following the serious concerns that were aired during a meeting on February 2011.

    Thirteen people were killed and dozens were injured when a 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.

    The blast occurred in containers, full of munitions, which Cyprus had confiscated from ``Monchegorsk``, a vessel sailing from Iran to Syria in 2009. Nicosia was acting in accordance with UN sanctions against Teheran.

    [02] PRESIDENT - BLAST REPORT - DISSMISAL

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias categorically rejected that he bears personal responsibility concerning the deadly blast that took place on July 11 at the naval base Evaggelos Florakis, at Mari, adding that he will not resign.

    The President was addressing a group of refugees from Morphou, a Turkish-occupied town in the north western part of Cyprus, during the inauguration of their new Morphou Sports Association premises, in Limassol.

    Speaking in the aftermath of the publication of a report, earlier today, by Head of the Inquiry Commission Polis Polyviou, concerning the allocation of responsibilities on the handling of the storage of a confiscated cargo, that led to the deadly blast killing 13 people, President Christofias noted that the reports conclusion are not substantiated by the testimonies in front of the commission, adding that Polyviou had overstepped the terms of his mandate.

    The conclusions on behalf of Polyviou are not substantiated from the testimonies taken and the material presented in front of the inquiry commission the President said.

    He added that to the contrary, many conclusions by Polyviou in his report - especially when it comes to the Presidents involvement to the issue under scrutiny - seem manifestly and at first sight to lack the necessary documentation.

    The President went on by saying that without doubt, one can safely argue that Polyviou has overstepped the terms of his mandate,`` said the President.

    Moreover, he said that he would await the report by the Police, which will allocate possible criminal responsibilities and will give a comprehensive picture of the incident, in order for the government to take a definite position.

    [03] CYPRUS AIR SPACE - TURKEY - VIOLATIONS

    Communications and Works Minister Efthymios Flourentzos has said that violations of Cyprus` air space by the Turks is an everyday phenomenon, adding that up to now there was no incidence of air or sea violation and there is no information for any harassment of Israeli ships or any deployment of Russian fleet in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Invited to comment on the ongoing provocations of Turkey, as Cyprus has begun natural gas and oil exploration in its exclusive economic zone, Flourentzos said that under normal circumstances they should have asked the Republic of Cyprus to issue a relevant notification, on the basis of the application they would make, but they havent done so.

    They have confined spaces outside the Republic of Cyprus sea waters to perform exercises and in this way they violate the Republic of Cyprus air space, the Minister said, expressing certainty that the Foreign Ministry is making representations to international organizations.

    Asked whether Turkish wars ships have harassed Israeli ships, Flourentzos said that he was not informed on this issue, adding that there was no incident.


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