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President of the Republic of Cyprus expresses solidarity with Greece
2009-08-24 13:14:16

Nicosia, Aug 24 – President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias spoke on the telephone with President of the Greek Republic Karolos Papoulias and Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis on August 24, and expressed his personal as well as the Cypriot people’s sympathy and solidarity to the people of Greece for the great disaster caused by the raging fires in the country, according to an official press release.

President Christofias expressed the readiness of the government of the Republic of Cyprus to offer any help it can to address this tragedy. President Papoulias thanked President Christofias both for the expression of sympathy and for the aid already sent to Greece by the Republic of Cyprus.

President Christofias also contacted the Prime Minister of Greece and conveyed to him the sympathy and solidarity of Cyprus with the government and the people of Greece.

“We are ready, if asked, to send help, to assist in the way we did in 2007,” the head of the Fire Services Andreas Nikolaou has said.

Three Greek C-130 transport planes will carry more firemen and fire brigade vehicles from Cyprus to Greece to help put out the raging wildfires, in northeastern Attiki, Cyprus Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis announced on August 24.

The Interior Minister said that the Ministry aims to send a 90-person team, consisting of firefighters and specialized volunteers together with their fire brigade vehicles, to help contain the massive blazes in Attiki.

Sylikiotis pointed out that forces from Cyprus sent on Sunday to Greece are already operating in the area of Nea Makri. Cyprus has already sent 37 firefighters, 16 firefighters of the Forestry Department, 15 persons from the Civil Defense department, two fire brigade vehicles and a firefighting helicopter with a 5-person crew.

“Cyprus government is ready to do all in its power, supported by voluntary teams, to help efforts to contain the wildfires and reduce damage in properties and the environment,” Sylikiotis told the reporters.

He added that he is in constant contact with the Interior Minister of Greece, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, and that the Minister of Justice, Loukas Louka, is speaking with his counterpart in Greece, both expressing the readiness of the government to send more forces to Greece.

Sylikiotis also said that the wildfires in Greece stress the need for better cooperation within the European Union to increase existing manpower and enhance its infrastructure, in order to assist member states in similar cases of major natural disasters. He also recalled Cyprus’ proposal to the EU to set up a Joint Operations Center for the Mediterranean member states.

The flames near Athens are estimated to have destroyed more than 30,000 acres of forest, farming fields and olive groves. Officials said more than 2,000 firefighters, soldiers and volunteers were fighting the blaze on the ground. Wildfires have forced thousands to flee their homes.

Greek officials have said the fire had reached the suburbs of Aghios Stefanos, Anthoussa, Pallini, Pikermi and Dionyssos.

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