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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus is setting up a satellite earth station that will anchor a search-and-rescue control center covering Europe's southeastern edge, the defense minister said Monday.
The earth station will be Europe's third such facility, complementing ones in Norway and Spain that improve authorities' response to regional emergencies, Christoforos Fokaides told The Associated Press in an interview.
He said Cypriot authorities will relay received distress signals to search-and-rescue crews in the countries closest to any emergency.
Fokaides said Cyprus is perfectly positioned geographically to host the satellite earth station.
"The completion of this project will significantly upgrade the role that Cyprus can play as a search and rescue hub," the defense minister said.
He said a key component of its enhanced role is the fact that Cyprus has signed search and rescue agreements with Israel, Syria and Greece and is in the process of concluding such agreements with neighboring Lebanon and Egypt.
Fokaides said Cypriot authorities are also working closely with other countries including Britain, France and the U.S. in improving the region's response to emergencies.
The Cypriot Defense Ministry announced Monday that it will be conducting a joint search and rescue drill with the French navy later in the week. Cyprus has recently held similar drills with Israel and the U.S.
Fokaides said the need for added maritime security in this volatile region and the discovery of offshore gas deposits is evolving the Cypriot National Guard's land-based focus to include a stronger maritime dimension.
He said Cyprus is looking to upgrade its seaborne operational capacity "through the procurement of the necessary means."
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