British High Commissioner Stephen Lillie and Lieutenant Junior Grade Anastasios Paraskevopoulos from the Larnaca Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre (JRCC) paid tribute to the close working relationship between the UK and Cyprus after a successful search and rescue exercise off the coast of Limassol today.
The exercise, which was led by the Larnaca JRCC saw assets from Cyprus’ Police Aviation Unit, the UK’s HMS ENTERPRISE and the British Bases’ 84 Squadron – with a member of the Cyprus Navy on board – simulate a joint rescue of a missing person and the evacuation of an injured crew member from aboard a ship.
HMS ENTERPRISE is a multi-role survey vessel which has recently returned to Limassol having been deployed to Beirut immediately after the recent deadly explosion in the port.
She operated alongside the Lebanese Navy Hydrographic Service to conduct a survey of the approaches to the port.
Speaking after the exercise, the British High Commissioner said: “Such exercises are vital for maintaining our search and rescue preparedness and an excellent opportunity to bring our nations together in training. We value our long-running cooperation with Cyprus in both SAR and crisis response, and we look forward to continuing to work together, including through live exercises, to the benefit of both our countries and the wider region”.
Commander of the Cyprus British Forces Major General Rob Thomson, pointed to the importance of that working relationship saying that “today’s exercise further strengthens an already close working relationship between our two nations. Our crew from RAF Akrotiri’s 84 Squadron have worked successfully alongside their colleagues in the Republic of Cyprus on an almost daily basis, fighting fires during this very busy summer period. To be able to utilise the capabilities of HMS Enterprise whilst it is moored in Cyprus was also an opportunity too good to miss”.
“We will do this together” Major General Thomson added in Greek.
Commanding Officer of HMS ENTERPRISE, Commander Cecil James Ladislaus, added: “Having been deployed across the globe this year, the importance of working with our international partners cannot be understated. At the start of this year, we needed to conduct a casualty evacuation using helicopter support. This sort of thing could happen to any mariner, anytime, anywhere – it is in our best interests to train and work together like this to ensure that we are ready should the unexpected occur”.
Officer Commanding of 84 Squadron, Squadron Leader Alan Ross, said: “Lives can depend on how well we work together, so it is important to get it right first time. That is why we train in complex and difficult environments at a national level”.
JRCC Operations Department Officer, Lt Jr Gr Anastasios Paraskevopoulos, said: “JRCC consider planning and executing joint exercises with aeronautical assets in the Nicosia FIR as very important. This kind of exercise contributes to enhance even more the existing excellent cooperation with the Royal Navy and Air Force, 84 SAR Sq, and it is a great opportunity for all participants to share knowledge and experience in SAR matters”.
Bilateral cooperation between the UK and Cyprus on SAR incidents and tackling natural disasters has strengthened over the years.
With the cancellation of Argonaut as a result of Covid-19, today’s exercise was the first UK–Cyprus exercise of 2020.
It is expected that more joint SAR exercises will take place later in the year.