A US-funded center in Cyprus will help train officials from countries in the eastern Mediterranean region and the Middle East on the latest techniques in border, customs, maritime and cyber security, the acting head of the US Department of Homeland Security said on Monday.
Chad Wolf said the $5 million (4 million-euro) Cyprus Center for Land, Open-Seas, and Port Security (CYCLOPS) will incorporate a mobile facility to instruct officials on how to best protect their key infrastructure and take part in cross-border cyber investigations.
The center will also include a mock land border crossing and a passenger screening area. The US will build the facility and provide equipment and trainers. It's expected that it will be completed by year's end.
"These training platforms will serve as a hub that works in close coordination and association with partner countries in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and elsewhere," Wolf told a ceremony marking the start of the center's construction.
Wolf said the center will mirror a similar facility that the US State Department has maintained in Central America for over a decade.
He called the center an important result of a renewed American engagement in the Eastern Mediterranean region and "of the strong relationship between the United States and Republic of Cyprus."
Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said talks are ongoing with officials from the US and the European Security and Defense College to expand the center's operations to include counter-terrorism training.
The deal to set up the facility in Cyprus was done during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to the island nation last September.
Cyprus and the U.S. have forged closer security links in recent years, culminating in the 2019 congressional approval of the Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Partnership Act that underscores US support for an energy-based partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
Under the Act, the US is providing ethnically divided Cyprus with funding for military training and has partially lifted an arms embargo that was enacted 33 years ago to prevent a possible arms race harming talks with breakaway Turkish Cypriots.