06 February 2014 14:08

A significant reduction in military term is likely once a National Guard restructuring plan is approved and put into effect, the Minister of Defence said.
If all goes according to plan,  military service could be cut from 24 months to only 14 months.
Speaking during an interview on Super Sport FM, Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou confirmed the proposal has been completed and will be presented to the House Defence Committee for review next week.
The plan, as expected, contains a suggestion for reducing military service as outlined in President Nicos Anastasiades' pre-election pledge.
"I would like to stress that 2014 will be a year of significant changes in the National Guard," said Fotiou.
"The restructuring will help the army fulfil its important obligations despite the financial difficulties our country is facing."
When asked to comment on the extent of the army term reduction, the minister said that with the exception of Israel, Cyprus' 24-month compulsory military service is the longest in the world and noted that this will soon change.
According to unconfirmed reports, once the restructuring is implemented, the term will likely be reduced to 18 months or even 14 months if conditions allow.  
In his pre-election pledge, Anastasiades said reducing the army term to 14 months could be achieved if the military turns semi-professional.
And Fotiou hinted that the National Guard is already examining this route as a number of services currently performed by the army will be taken over by private contractors.
"Fuel management within the military is just one of these services we are currently looking into," he explained.
Asked if the Navy still plans to buy two frigates from the French government following an incident on the weekend during which a Norwegian seismic ship was harassed by a Turkish frigate in Cyprus waters, Fotiou confirmed that the purchase has been put on hold.
"We fully respect our country's institutions and the House Defence Committee's decision on the matter even though this purchase could be solely covered by the Defence Ministry's funds."
The minister noted that the government has lodged a complaint over the incident with the Turkish vessel but has no interest in clashing with Ankara.
"Our aim is to protect Cyprus' best interests especially during a time when important work is being carried out in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone."
Referring to Cyprus' search for natural gas reserves, Fotiou said the potential underwater wealth is crucial for the economic future of the country and promised that plans to reduce National Guard expenditure will in no way compromise Cyprus' defence capabilities.


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