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Cyprus Naval Command / Dioikese Nautikou

The Cyprus Naval Command [the Cyprus Navy or Cypriot Navy] is the sea wing of the National Guard. The Cyprus Navy has the primary mission of defending the sea borders of the Republic of Cyprus. At the same time Cyprus constitutes a centre of marine operations in the wider region. Despite the construction of a new naval base at Paphos (Zygi), which would facilitate the transport of reinforcements coming from Greece in times of crisis, the Republic of Cyprus's (ROC) naval capability remains confined to search and rescue and patrolling the ROC's southern littoral. It is being given additional duties to control the influx of illegal immigrants.

The maritime element of the National Guard is equipped only for a basic coastal patrol role. This force does not possess major combatants, but is equipped with patrol boats, shore-based Exocet anti-shipping cruise missiles and integrated radar systems, as well as a SEAL-type naval underwater demolition unit. In 1989 the National Guard Naval Command, with 330 personnel, had one coastal patrol craft of 95 tons mounting a 40mm gun. The Cypriot navy in 1974 consisted of six, more than 25-year-old, Soviet-built torpedo boats and a gunboat.

In March 2000 Greece donated a patrol boat to the Cyprus navy, during a ceremony attended by Greek defense minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his visiting Cypriot counterpart, Socrates Hasikos. Tsohatzopoulos said the common obligation of the two countries to ensure the security of their nations against any threat and to jointly support the prospect for security, peace and cooperation among all the peoples of the region was reflected in the donation of the patrol boat "Knossos", which was renamed "Kyrenia" after the Turkish-occupied town on Cyprus' northern coast. The defense minister also warned that any effort to "change the status quo or to dispute our sovereign rights will find us united and strong in our response". Hasikos said the Greek gesture reaffirmed Athens' and Nicosia's determination to boost their deterrent capability in the framework of the Greece-Cyprus joint defense doctrine. He also stressed the historic significance of the renaming of the patrol boat as the "Kerynia", noting that the oldest known Greek merchant ship had been found in the Cypriot town of Kerynia and that he himself was elected to the Cyprus House of Representatives by the displaced residents of the town, which was now under Turkish occupation. After the delivery ceremony, the Greek and Cypriot crews of the vessel exchanged commemorative plaques, while Hasikos presented Tsohatzopoulos with an honorary plaque from the Cyprus House of Representatives in recognition of his efforts to boost cooperation between the two countries.

By 2004 there were about a dozen active surface vessels heavier than 15 tons. Two Esterel type vessels are armed with Mistral-SIMBAD SAM launchers, and a pair of Italian 47-foot vessels were delivered in May or June 2004, based at Zygi. The Kelefstis Stamou ships are French-built. They were ordered by Cyprus, but delivered to the Hellenic Navy in 1975.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) held a "Maritime Crisis Management" training course in Limassol from September 14-13, 2007. Thirty representatives of the Marine Police, the Cyprus Port Authority, Customs, the Department of Merchant Shipping and the Cyprus Navy participated in lectures and practical exercises designed to help further improve security at Cypriot ports. The course emphasized the necessary skills for decision-makers to manage, respond to and mitigate an emergency or crisis incident within a maritime port.

In May 2008 Cyprus took over the Chairmanship of the Chiefs of European Navies Forum (CHENS). The CHENS Forum is an unofficial, independent and non political gathering of the Chiefs of the European Navies. Its purpose is to seek mutual understanding in examining matters of common concern. The countries that currently participate in the forum are Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The CHENS Meeting takes place once a year. In May 7 and 8, 2009, the meeting took place in Limassol and was chaired by the Chief of the Cyprus Navy Command, Captain Andreas Ioannides.

On 30 January 2009 the Cypriot Navy as intercepted an Iranian ship en route to Syria with weapons cargo on board, probably for Hamas. The Cypriot Navy stopped a Syria-bound Iranian ship, believed to be carrying weapons, possibly for Hizballah [most reports state the arms were meant for Hamas]. The US military had previously stopped the vessel in the Red Sea, but allowed it to continue because the US could not legally stop its journey or seize its cargo. the Cypriot Navy which was legally allowed to intercept it since it was flying a Cypriot flag. The Cypriot-flagged Monchegorsk was anchored off the island's southern port of Limassol. Limassol port also plays host to many of the Cyprus navy's ships and is a popular destination for navy sailors on shore leave Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias said that the ship had violated UN resolutions. The arms cargo aboard Monchegorsk was transported to Cypriot Navy base Antistratigos Evaggelos Florakis at Mari, where it will be stored.



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