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‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

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‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

Postby CBBB » Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:44 am

By Stefanos Evripidou
Published on July 12, 2011

TWELVE dead and 62 injured – two seriously – the island’s main power station destroyed and significant damage to private properties, were the result of what appears to be criminal negligence on behalf of officials who left containers full of munitions exposed to the elements for more than two years.

The huge explosion at the Evangelos Florakis naval base at Mari in the early hours Monday killed the navy chief and the base commander along with four other sailors and six fire-fighters, who had been battling a blaze around 98 containers full of munitions ‘stored’ by being stacked together and exposed to the elements.

Making things worse, the munitions were stacked near the island’s main power station, which yesterday seemed to be all but destroyed, sparking a chain reaction that is expected to deal a severe blow to the island’s already ailing economy. The immediate effects were rolling power and water cuts islandwide.

Defence Minister Costas Papacostas and National Guard chief Petros Tsalikidis resigned just hours after the bloody event as the government declared three days of mourning.

“A black day for Cyprus –was how President Demetris Christofias described the tragic events

as a stunned nation mourned their dead.

Eyewitnesses of the devastation caused by yesterday’s huge blast which ripped through the naval base could only speak of their terror and confusion as their homes and businesses. Relatives and friends of the victims besieged Limassol hospital in the morning anxious to learn if their loved ones were among the dead.

Around 150 people in the village of Mari and the surrounding area have been left in need of shelter for the next few days at least,

Amid the grief and confusion accusations began pouring in on the decisions and omissions that led to the tragedy. DISY boss Nikos Anastassiades spoke of an “unprecedented criminal errors,” pledging that these would not be tolerated.

The munitions had come from the Monchegorsk, a Cypriot-flagged ship bound for Syria and originating from Iran, which was apprehended on January 20, 2009 in the Red Sea by US warships. Following an on-board search suspicious military material was reported and the ship was ordered to dock at the port of

The cargo was later offloaded and stored at the naval base where it remained exposed for two and a half years despite several warnings over the risks.

US diplomatic cables sent to and from the US Embassy in Nicosia and leaked by Wikileaks revealed the government’s grave desire to handle the situation so as not to upset Syria.

US Ambassador Frank Urbancic wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noting that the Cyprus Republic wanted UN cover for any actions taken so as not to provoke a retaliatory move by Syria, involving the further upgrading of the breakaway state in the north or new ferry links to the occupied areas.

In the many pages leaked, the US ambassador frequently reports on Cyprus’ rejection of the US’ offer to help handle the highly explosive material. In a diplomatic cable dated January 29, 2009, Urbancic notes that the US offered technical assistance to Cyprus.

A few days later, on February 2, the cable reveals Germany also offered help in the form of technical experts or even dispatching a vessel that could remove the cargo from Cypriot territory.

In the same cable, Urbancic referred to a phone conversation with the head of the diplomatic office at the presidential palace Leonidas Pantelides.

The ambassador noted that “if Cyprus were to confiscate the cargo with aims of disposing it, the USG (US government) would stand ready to lend technical assistance… Pantelides again demurred on the offer of technical assistance.”


On February 10, 2009, the US mission at UN headquarters in New York wrote greater involvement by the UN Sanctions Committee “might inspire Cyprus to accept one of the many offers of third-party assistance to dispose of the cargo”.

Three days later, Urbancic reports back to Washington that Pantelides clearly declined his offer of US technical assistance in determining the containers’ contents.

In fact, not only did the government not take up the American offer of expert assistance, at that point, they weren’t even sure whether they would use any expert advice at all.

On February 13, 2009, speaking from the Mari naval base, Defence Minister Costas Papacostas, said “the material is completely safe, there is no risk”, adding, “It could even be placed in residential areas without any risk”.

However, as one source put it, there was no shortage of countries willing to help Cyprus move and dispose of the explosive materials after they were transferred to Mari.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said yesterday, “Storage of the material was assigned to the National Guard.”

But ‘secret’ minutes of a discussion dated August 6, 2009, on the future of the cargo obtained by the Cyprus Mail, show that the NG wanted nothing to do with the cargo.

During the meeting, then defence ministry permanent secretary Petros Kareklas highlighted that storage of the cargo was problematic for the NG. The military material could not be used by the NG, since it didn’t have the relevant infrastructure.

“The NG underlined that it was not its mission to be responsible for the cargo,” said the minutes.

Kareklas noted that decision for the NG to store the cargo was a temporary one and that storing gunpowder entailed risks.

The meeting concluded based on foreign ministry permanent secretary Nicos Emiliou’s proposal to maintain the status quo until the president returns from his trip to Syria and the UN General Assembly in October, 2009.

It appears, no further decision was taken after that, despite President Demetris Christofias returning that October.

http://www.cyprus-mail.com/president-ch ... t/20110712
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Re: ‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

Postby Sotos » Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:04 am

Why the Americans did not allow the Syrians to receive their weapons? Why they didn't take the ship themselves? What would the Americans do if Cyprus agreed to their offers and the Syrians started direct flights and trade with the occupied? Would they send their battleships and fighter jets to stop the Syrians?... I don't think so! The responsibility of our government is obvious. The responsibility of the Americans is also obvious. .... The article by CM seems to be missing words :?
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Re: ‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

Postby CBBB » Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:14 am

Sotos, we were upholding a UN resolution, something we are very keen for others to do, so we should have done this without waiting to be told by anyone else.

I am afraid I cannot subscribe to only upholding UN resolutions that are in our interests, that is not option an when you join an institution like the UN.

Your comments about the US taking the cargo are irrelevant, they offered to sort it out (as apparently did the UK, Germany, and France), but our all-knowing President didn't want to upset our "friends" Syria, Iran, and of course Russia!
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Re: ‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

Postby Sotos » Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:28 am

So we should take action to enforce UN resolutions? When did the British or the Americans take any action to enforce the resolution about Cyprus and force the Turks out? We didn't even know what was on the ship. If the Americans knew it was violating some resolution then they should have taken the cargo themselves without involving us. Why should we be forced to damage our relationship with other countries just to serve the Imperialist games of the Americans?
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Re: ‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

Postby CBBB » Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:45 am

Sotos wrote:So we should take action to enforce UN resolutions? When did the British or the Americans take any action to enforce the resolution about Cyprus and force the Turks out? We didn't even know what was on the ship. If the Americans knew it was violating some resolution then they should have taken the cargo themselves without involving us. Why should we be forced to damage our relationship with other countries just to serve the Imperialist games of the Americans?


Ceaser 's wife! We should always be the first to uphold UN resolutions, even if they support the imperialists. Regardless, that idiot communist president who still thinks the Soviet Union exists, should go!
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Re: ‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

Postby Sotos » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:34 pm

CBBB wrote:
Sotos wrote:So we should take action to enforce UN resolutions? When did the British or the Americans take any action to enforce the resolution about Cyprus and force the Turks out? We didn't even know what was on the ship. If the Americans knew it was violating some resolution then they should have taken the cargo themselves without involving us. Why should we be forced to damage our relationship with other countries just to serve the Imperialist games of the Americans?


Ceaser 's wife! We should always be the first to uphold UN resolutions, even if they support the imperialists. Regardless, that idiot communist president who still thinks the Soviet Union exists, should go!


I agree that the president should resign. But I disagree with the selective enforcement of UN resolutions by the Americans. We didn't violate any resolutions. If the Iranians or the Syrians did that should be their problem and not ours. The Americans should not have forced us to take this cargo and create such a political problem to us.
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Re: ‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

Postby CBBB » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:55 pm

Sotos wrote:
CBBB wrote:
Sotos wrote:So we should take action to enforce UN resolutions? When did the British or the Americans take any action to enforce the resolution about Cyprus and force the Turks out? We didn't even know what was on the ship. If the Americans knew it was violating some resolution then they should have taken the cargo themselves without involving us. Why should we be forced to damage our relationship with other countries just to serve the Imperialist games of the Americans?


Ceaser 's wife! We should always be the first to uphold UN resolutions, even if they support the imperialists. Regardless, that idiot communist president who still thinks the Soviet Union exists, should go!


I agree that the president should resign. But I disagree with the selective enforcement of UN resolutions by the Americans. We didn't violate any resolutions. If the Iranians or the Syrians did that should be their problem and not ours. The Americans should not have forced us to take this cargo and create such a political problem to us.


We would have violated a resolution if we had not taken every measure to impound the cargo being carried by a Cyprus flagged vessel.

When other countries are selective in what they do we can point the finger at them. When we do the same thing we are justifying what they do! Can't you see that?
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Re: ‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

Postby Filitsa » Tue Jul 12, 2011 4:21 pm

Sotos wrote:Why the Americans did not allow the Syrians to receive their weapons? Why they didn't take the ship themselves? What would the Americans do if Cyprus agreed to their offers and the Syrians started direct flights and trade with the occupied? Would they send their battleships and fighter jets to stop the Syrians?... I don't think so! The responsibility of our government is obvious. The responsibility of the Americans is also obvious. .... The article by CM seems to be missing words :?


The ultimate responsibility of your government is to act in the best interest of its people. Did it?
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Re: ‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

Postby Sotos » Tue Jul 12, 2011 4:27 pm

What would be in the best interests of Cypriots would be if this ship went to Syria and never came to Cyprus. Some others were responsible for bringing it to Cyprus. Our government is responsible for what happened after that but there is also responsibility for those who brought it here.
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Re: ‘Criminal errors’ in navy base blast

Postby Filitsa » Tue Jul 12, 2011 5:05 pm

But you see, Sotos, I did not ask, "What would be in the best interest of Cypriots?" I asked if the government acted in the best interest of its people.

The government of Cyprus was responsible from the start. The ship was carrying the flag of Cyprus and contraband munitions.
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