Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides and acting US Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the Cyprus Center for Land, Open-Seas and Port Security (CYCLOPS) took place in Larnaca on Monday, with the two officials lauding the strong partnership between Cyprus and the US as well as the crucial role that the training center will play in the region.
The $5 million (around €4.06 million) training hub will be overseen by the US, which will also supply equipment, trainers, and other capacity-building support, while the Republic of Cyprus will contribute land, facilitate travel, and provide trainers. Official construction is expected to begin February 2021.
"Here, experts from the region will receive state of the art instruction in border security, customs and export controls, port and maritime security, and cybersecurity. A mobile cyber security training laboratory will allow regional partners to learn best practices to secure their critical infrastructure and engage in cross-border cyber investigations. These training platforms will serve as a hub that works in close association with partner countries in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and elsewhere", Wolf said.
He added that he has seen this model work first-hand as he was recently in Central America where the US have maintained a similar facility for well over a decade.
Wolf said that the CYCLOPS center is just one of the noteworthy results of continuing American engagement in the Eastern Mediterranean region and of the strong relationship between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus.
"We look forward to continuing our security partnership with the Republic of Cyprus and the region in the coming years", he concluded.
According to the US Embassy in Nicosia, CYCLOPS will allow the United States and their partners to provide enhanced technical assistance related to safety and security.
The training facility will include a number of different hands-on training platforms, including a mock land border crossing, passenger screening area, and a mobile cyber security training laboratory, which will enable regional partners to learn best practices for securing critical infrastructure and to engage in cross border, counter-proliferation cyber investigations.
CYCLOPS will also support efforts to curb the proliferation risks posed by malign regional actors and violent extremist organizations.
“The construction and ongoing support for CYCLOPS is a true partnership,” the US Embassy stated.
The culmination of a joint effort, Cyprus FM says
Christodoulides said that Monday’s ceremony marks the culmination of a joint effort that has become emblematic of the way in which the bilateral cooperation between our two countries, Cyprus and the United States, has grown and deepened over the past few years.
"It is a positive occasion indeed, coming at the very beginning of a new year, and I very much hope that it will set the tone for things to come in 2021,” Christodoulides said.
“The groundbreaking for the construction of CYCLOPS, a Training Facility that will serve Cyprus and the broader region, as well as our cooperation with the US, is an important development — one could even say a watershed — in a number of ways", he said.
Christodoulides pointed out that first and foremost, it is a prime example of the tangible results that the growing bilateral security relationship between the Republic of Cyprus and the United States is already yielding a major accomplishment for both sides.
"I would therefore like to congratulate Ambassador Garber and her associates in Nicosia and in Washington, as well as our own dedicated team, for bringing this project to fruition. I wish to express our warm appreciation also to the Mayor and the Municipality of Larnaca for their support and cooperation, and especially for their assistance in securing this ideal plot of land", he added.
Christodoulides underlined that today we are entering the final phase of the implementation of this innovative project, for which discussions started soon after the signing of the Statement of Intent on Security Cooperation between our two governments, in the fall of 2018. These discussions, he added, culminated in the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of CYCLOPS with the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, during his visit to Cyprus in September.
"Plans were drawn up swiftly after that, whilst at the same time the process was completed to secure the land. As a result of all these efforts, Chad and I stand here today breaking the ground for construction to begin,” Christodoulides said.
If everything goes well, the premises will be completed within the year, Christodoulides said.
“I sincerely hope that by then, with the pandemic hopefully in check, we will be able to have an inauguration ceremony, perhaps also in the presence of more distinguished guests from the United States", the Foreign Minister added.
"We are already working with our American friends, to see how we can expand its activities, and within this framework we are already in discussions with the European Security and Defense College, an EU Institution, to see how we could develop synergies in relation to Counter-terrorism training activities", he said.
According to FM, this would be a major development, adding that at the same time "we are putting together a “development team” for CYCLOPS, whose role will be to look into different areas of training that we could expand into".
"For example, we are looking into the growing field of countering hybrid threats as a promising area for us, as well as at revisiting the counter-radicalization programs that have been developed as part of the Aqaba Process. Already, a few countries have informally indicated an interest in such cooperation", he said.