In the presence of ambassadors and military followers from various countries, the 3rd and final Implementation Phase of the ESTIA National Plan, which concerns the evacuation and reception of civilians from a crisis area, took place in the afternoon at the Search and Rescue Coordination Center (SRC) in Larnaca, in the context of the multinational exercise “Argonaut 2023”, with the Chief of the National Guard, Demokritos Zervakis, assuring that “we will continue to increase our capacity to provide assistance to any humanitarian operation or emergency in the region”.
In his greeting, Ambassador Homeros Mavrommatis, Director of the Schengen Directorate, Consular Affairs and Crisis Management, expressed his appreciation to all the participating countries taking part in Exercise “Argonaut 2023”. and noted that “the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus in cooperation with embassies and competent bodies act and react to possible scenarios concerning issues that may arise during an evacuation operation, terrorism, illegal drug trafficking, human trafficking, medical emergencies and others».
Mr. Mavrommatis also referred to the recent events in Sudan and said that "following an official request from the United Kingdom, the Special National Plan "HOME" was activated. for the evacuation of civilians from Sudan to the EU and third countries via Cyprus, thus using our country as a temporary safe location.
He said that during the activation of the Scheme there were 31 flights, 29 by British and 2 by Australians, which carried 2611 people from Sudan, 14 of whom were of Cypriot origin/connection.
He added that "the UK's help in evacuating these 14 people is highly appreciated" and thanked the UK High Commissioner "not only for the evacuation of civilians requested by the Republic of Cyprus but also for the excellent cooperation we have had in recent weeks» while also thanking the Australian High Commission for the "equally important cooperation".
He further stated that "the crisis in Sudan has given us the opportunity to work closely together, to test our readiness to react and to see in practice how we can best use our resources and implement our plan, so as to deliver an effective evacuation. not only to eligible individuals from the United Kingdom and Cyprus but also to individuals from other 27 partner countries such as the USA, Australia, Ireland, Canada and Switzerland».
Furthermore, continued Mr. Mavrommatis realized "the importance of Cyprus' geographical position and the adequacy of its infrastructure and services, not only in terms of the evacuation of civilians from the Eastern Mediterranean, but also from elsewhere, as happened with Sudan".
Referring to the exercise “Argonaut 2023” which started on Monday said that during the previous days as well as today, the exercise of the Non Combatant Evacuation Operations Coordinating Group (NEO CG – Non Combatant Evacuation Operations Coordinating Group) was carried out during which the lessons learned were also added resulting from the evacuation of civilians from Sudan.
At the same time, he expressed the certainty that the exercise “was extremely useful as it provided all the participating states with valuable lessons that will be incorporated into their operational planning”. in which all the interested parties and the involved agencies, Ministries and Services of the Republic of Cyprus will proceed with the necessary changes in their design in order to develop it and synchronize it with current needs, he noted.
Mr. Mavrommatis thanked the Ministry of Defense and all the Ministries and Services of the Republic and the Cyprus Red Cross for "not only for their participation in the "Argonaut 2023" exercise. but also for their valuable help and cooperation during the actual activation of the Special National Plan "ESTIA" for the evacuation from Sudan».
At the same time, he thanked "for the close cooperation and for his commitment to the upgrading of the National Guard" the Chief of the GEEF Lieutenant General Demokritos Zervakis as his term, as he said, expires at the end of June.
He also expressed his "gratitude and appreciation" for the commitment of the countries that cooperated with the Republic of Cyprus for the successful conduct of the "Argonaut 2023" exercise. and noted that "we look forward to hosting the countries again in 2024, a year of great importance for Cyprus, as we will celebrate 20 years of our membership in the European Union".
In his own greeting, the Chief of the National Guard, Dimokritos Zervakis, referred to the three phases of the "Argonautis 2023" exercise.
Yesterday, he said, "During the search and rescue phase, a mass rescue operation was carried out due to an air crash at Larnaca airport and alongside a marine accident within the Larnaca Search and Rescue area. The National Plan “Tevkros” was activated. under the coordination of the Search and Rescue Coordination Center, while in order to save all the people who were in danger, forces were involved, aeronautical means and personnel from 8 other countries.
He added that "the 2nd phase involved a civilian evacuation operation and took place at the "Zinos" Coordination Center. with more than 200 diplomats and military personnel participating from 17 countries along with the UN and the EU».
During the 3rd phase of the exercise, he said, “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is coordinating the implementation of the National Plan “ESTIA”, where 16 competent agencies of the Republic are coordinating to help and support 18 embassies and two International Organizations for the mass reception of citizens them».
As Chief Zervakis said, "the exercise clearly demonstrated that the Republic of Cyprus plays a constructive regional role and acts as a reliable interlocutor, a bridge of connection and peace mediator between North Africa, the Near and Middle East and the European Union".
At the same time, he assured that "we will continue to increase our capacity to provide assistance to any humanitarian operation or emergency in the region. For this purpose, the "Argonaut" exercise will remain at the center of our efforts, as an excellent opportunity to strengthen the relationship with all neighboring and friendly countries, always seeking peace and stability in this region.
The exercise was attended by others the ambassadors of the USA, the Netherlands, France, Israel, Austria, Greece, Australia, Japan and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Cyprus, Colin Stewart.
After the greetings, those present had the opportunity to watch live the exercise of the Special National Plan ESTIA on giant screens that took place at Larnaca airport.
Among the scenarios were the reception of a patient who was transported by helicopter from a ship in the area and the arrival of civilians by civilian aircraft, who were evacuated from a crisis area in Cyprus, as’ way to their countries of origin.