EU, Mideast nations look to train at Cyprus security center

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LARNACA, Cyprus (AP) — Three European Union member nations and three Middle Eastern countries are looking to train personnel in border, customs, maritime and cybersecurity techniques at a cutting-edge U.S.-funded facility in Cyprus that is expected to be ready early next year, the Cypriot foreign minister said Thursday.

The Cyprus Center for Land, Open-Seas, and Port Security (CYCLOPS) is scheduled to start operating on Jan. 16, 2022, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said after inspecting the under-construction facility with U.S. Ambassador Judith Garber.

Christodoulides said Cyprus was selected for the center because the Mediterranean island nation is located on the southeastern end of the EU and because it enjoys good relations with the nations in the Mideast.

“Officials from neighboring countries as well as from EU member states will receive the kind of training required to counter common threats of a non-military nature,” he said.

CYCLOPS will include state-of-the-art equipment and a mobile facility to train officials on how to best protect key infrastructure projects and conducting cyber investigations and border screening. The U.S. will provide equipment and training staff.

Cypriot government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said U.S. President Joe Biden considers Cyprus a “significant partner” in bolstering regional security in the east Mediterranean and has pledged to further strengthen U.S.-Cyprus relations.

Biden made the remarks in a letter addressed to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Koushos said. In the letter, the U.S. president looks forward to working with Anastasiades to deal with issues of common interest in the east Mediterranean, the spokesman said.

Cyprus and the United States forged closer security links in recent years, culminating in the 2019 congressional approval of the Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Partnership Act, which underscored U.S. support for an energy-based partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Under the act, the U.S. is providing ethnically divided Cyprus with funding for military training and has partially lifted an arms embargo that was enacted 33 years ago to prevent a potential arms race from harming peace talks with the country's breakaway Turkish Cypriots.

Cyprus has licensed ExxonMobil to prospect for oil and gas in waters where the island nation has exclusive economic rights.