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US-funded Cyprus security centre operational 2022

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A US-funded training facility, the Cyprus Centre for Land, Open-seas, and Port Security (CYCLOPS), will enhance safer borders in the region when operational in mid-January 2022, officials said Thursday.

During a site inspection on Thursday, Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said the training facility would become operational on 16 January 2022, with two mln euros of equipment expected to arrive soon.

“The establishment of a Cypriot-owned regional training centre is a token of the strengthening of our relations in issues of security; bilateral relations are at the highest level than ever before,” said Christodoulides.

He said several European Union states and some countries in the Middle East have shown “strong interest” in training their officials in customs checks and cybersecurity threats.

Construction of the complex in Larnaca was envisaged in a deal signed in September 2020 with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited.

A groundbreaking ceremony at the site was held in January.

CYCLOPS will allow the United States to provide technical assistance related to security and safety, including customs and exports control, port and maritime security and cybersecurity.

Accompanying the minister, US ambassador Judith Garber said good progress had been made since the groundbreaking ceremony five months ago.

“The strong foundation that you see here is very reflective of the growing partnership between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus,” said Garber.

“And this state-of-the-art facility of Cyprus is going to help us in partnership, be able to bring greater security to the region,” she added.

Garber said Washington would be able to enhance regional capabilities in border security, cybersecurity, non-proliferation and “more for the countries of the region and beyond”.

Cyprus said it was selected because the Mediterranean island is located at the EU’s southeastern tip and enjoys good relations with key Middle East countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel.

The training facility will include various training platforms, including a mock land border crossing, passenger screening area, and a mobile cybersecurity training lab.

The US is providing equipment and expert training staff.

Cyprus has made a concerted effort to cultivate better relations with the US, culminating in the 2019 Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Partnership Act, signalling Washington’s backing for an energy-focused partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

It also included lifting a 33-year US arms embargo on Cyprus to allow “non-lethal” military weapons to be exported.

US energy giant ExxonMobil is licensed to explore for oil and gas in Cyprus waters, but the search is delayed for over a year due to the pandemic.

President Nicos Anastasiades has received a letter from US President Joe Biden, pledging to” further deepen the strong ties between the US and Cyprus”.

Cypriot government spokesperson Kyriacos Koushos said Thursday that Biden considers the “Republic of Cyprus an important partner for regional stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean”.