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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus' foreign minister says 21 countries are taking part in a drill organized by the east Mediterranean island nation that involves the possible evacuation of civilians from Middle Eastern nations.
Nikos Christodoulides said during the drill's final phase Thursday that given its proximity to the Middle East, Cyprus has an important role to play as a regional "safe transfer hub."
Taking part were warships and aircraft from countries including the U.S., France, Israel, the U.K. and Germany. The drill involved various rescue operation scenarios during the transport of civilians to a Cypriot port.
Christodoulides said the growing number of countries participating in the annual exercise is indicative of the international recognition of its value.
In 2006, Cyprus was used as a 'safe haven' to evacuate nearly 60,000 civilians from Lebanon.
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