Argonaut Exercise is Cyprus’ flagship multinational exercise, said Minister of Defence, Michalis Giorgallas, adding that the participation of seven countries including the UK and US, proves the international and regional importance of exercise ARGONAUT.

At the same time it also demonstrates the willingness of all the key actors in the region to contribute the maximum for an effective and efficient cooperation during humanitarian operations, he added.

Giorgallas spoke during the observation of Argonaut’s SAR phase, coordinated by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre hosted by the centre in Larnaca.

In his remarks, Giorgallas said Cyprus is hosting the Argonaut Exercise which is “our flagship multinational Exercise and we at the Ministry of Defense are extremely proud for the effort and work done with you all for its successful execution”.

The exercise, he added, contributes immensely to the country’s “preparedness and readiness to deal with severe crisis incidents and emergency situations related with humanitarian operations”. He gave as an example the recent crisis in Sudan, which “revealed the importance of exercise ARGONAUT with the evacuation and repatriation of 2600 citizens of 28 different nationalities from Sudan via Cyprus, which was acting as a safe haven”.

Giorgallas said “lessons learnt from real life operations will be used for the improvement of the procedures described in the plans, while exercises, such as this one, will test in practice the changes and finalize the actions needed to be implemented by all the involved services”.

Exercise Argonaut, commenced on Tuesday with the activation and evaluation of the national Plan “ESTIA”, with the whole preparation starting months prior to the actual start of the exercise said Giorgallas.

He said today’s part is the SAR phase, coordinated by the JRCC Larnaca with the participation of assets and personnel from seven countries, namely Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. “We welcome the participation of all the above States, and of all observer countries which proves the international and regional importance of exercise ARGONAUT. It also demonstrates the willingness of all the key actors in the region to contribute the maximum for an effective and efficient cooperation during humanitarian operations.”

“Given our geopolitical location, Cyprus has a crucial role to play acting as safe haven and by availing infrastructures, facilities and services to our partner countries”, the minister said, adding he is “absolutely confident that the efforts for cooperation will continue and be further improved – at all levels – in the common interest of all and especially of benefit of those need any kind of humanitarian assistance, either because of evacuation or because of maritime or aeronautical accident within the FIR of Nicosia.

In his address Deputy Minister of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, Philippos Hadjizacharias said the Deputy Ministry is the responsible authority for formulating and implementing the national space strategy and for the active participation of Cyprus in the European Union and in the ESA space programmes.

Space technologies are of strategic importance for economic growth, social prosperity and cohesion, for the protection of the environment, and for the enhancement of public security and civil defense, said the Minister, adding “the Government of the Republic of Cyprus has confirmed its political will and commitment for the development of the space technology sector in Cyprus and it promotes space technologies as a high priority in the political agenda of Cyprus.”

In this framework, said Hadjizacharias, “we granted eight authorizations for space orbits resulting in three satellites in operation and we secured the deployment of two ground stations (called RIMS) in Cyprus for the operation of the EU EGNOS System used to improve the performance of global navigation for aviation, maritime and land-based users.”

In addition, a Center of Excellence with its main activities being the observation of the earth from infrastructure located in space is planning the deployment of a ground station in Cyprus within the next year to receive real time data from the EU Copernicus space programme, he added.

The Minister further said “space Technologies and Satellite services play a crucial role in crisis and disaster risk management by providing timely and accurate information to support emergency response efforts and by providing help to save lives, reduce damage, and speed up recovery efforts. In particular, today for the Search and Rescue Exercise Scenario, a receiving earth station (called MEOLUT) which was deployed in Cyprus as part of the Search and Rescue service of the EU Galileo System, will be used for detecting and locating emergency beacons located in the sea. It is worth mentioning that Cyprus is one of the only three hosting countries of such infrastructure in Europe”, he concluded.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Lieutenant General Ioannis Vasilakis, from the National Guard General Staff, stated “our geographical position in the Middle East region has been a maritime hub controlling three continents since ancient times, and for this reason, Cyprus has been the apple of discord for major powers throughout history.”

He said the exploitation of Cyprus, due to its central position in the Eastern Mediterranean basin and its proximity to areas of geopolitical developments, providing facilities and infrastructure for conducting humanitarian operations, highlights its strategic role as an island of security and stability.

Noting that the exercise “ARGONAUT- 2023” is being organized for the 15th time, Lieutenant General Vasilakis said it covers a significant portion of contemporary threats and its purpose is to develop cooperation among the services of 11 different ministries of the Republic of Cyprus and forces of friendly countries in order to be prepared to effectively respond to any crisis in the region.

Commander of Larnaca’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center JRCC, Andreas Charalambides, welcomed the guests attending to observe the Multinational Exercise “ARGONAUT 2023” at the JRCC which is coordinating the Search and Rescue phase of the exercise which simulates two different scenarios (maritime and aeronautical), both occurred within Cyprus SRR, during the evacuation from a crisis area towards the Republic of Cyprus, which is acting as safe hαven.

He said the “recent crisis in Sudan reminded to us the reason why we have to be always ready to support any kind of humanitarian operations and only by testing the procedures during exercises we can achieve that goal”.

Commander Charalambides said he was grateful for the participation of over 800 personnel and 38 aeronautical assets from 8 countries, who have collaborated from the planning stage to the execution of this complex exercise.

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Omiros Mavrommatis, head of Consular Affairs, Schengen and Crisis Management, underlined the importance given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of Cyprus in preparing, coordinating , and working closely with partner countries on humanitarian operations especially when they concern cases that occur in our broader region.

“Consequently, apart from Search and Rescue missions, of which we are proud of the Republic’s and in particular of the JRCC’s role and preparedness to respond to any incident involving Search and Rescue, any Non-combatant evacuation operations in general are at the core of our planning”, he remarked.

For this reason, “active participation in NEO CG and continuous coordination between experts remain a priority for Cyprus” and referred to the recent example of the evacuation of EU and third country citizens from Sudan, using Cyprus as a temporary safe location. A total of 2611 citizens from 28 ( 27 + Cyprus) countries were evacuated and repatriated using Cyprus as a temporary safe location.

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