The upgrade of Cyprus’ National Guard is needed now more than ever due to the continued illegal presence of the Turkish occupation army on the island, said House President Annita Demetriou on Friday.

She was addressing an oath taking ceremony of women Contract Soldiers in Limassol.

Demetriou said the illegal presence of the Turkish occupation army on the island for more than 47 years now as well as the continued escalating and unacceptable Turkish demands and provocations in Cyprus’ EEZ and the arbitrary overturn of the status quo in Famagusta make imperative now, more than ever, the need to further upgrade the defence capability and readiness of the National Guard.

The aim, she added, is to defend the sovereign rights of our country and maintain the independence and territorial sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.

Turning to the women Contract Soldiers, she stressed that such a ceremony is a “great victory over stereotypical and sexist outdated beliefs of gender discrimination” in the Cyprus military.

“As a woman addressing women, I am proud and moved to see you in the honorable uniform of the National Guard, ready to undertake the highest duty towards our country”, she added.

The participation of women in every struggle in our country, she said, proves that women are able to defend our national interests, just as outstandingly as men can. She noted that it is not a matter of gender, but a matter of individual characteristics, such as discipline, professionalism, focus and dedication which are required to fulfill important missions and perform duties.

The House President went on to say that the enlistment of women Contract Soldiers is a momentous and innovative reform for the National Guard, and will empower the Cyprus Army.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

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