Defence minister visits armed forces in Cyprus

IMPRESSED Mark Francois on board HMS Diamond
IMPRESSED Mark Francois on board HMS Diamond

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ARMED forces minister Mark Francois has spent three days visiting soldiers and sailors on operations in Cyprus.

The Royal Navy’s Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Diamond was in the area supporting the international effort to remove chemical weapons from Syria.

And as reported in The News, there are a number of Portsmouth-based troops deployed to Cyprus at the moment as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force.

Mr Francois said: ‘I have been deeply impressed by the professionalism and commitment of all the service personnel, both regular and reservist, that I have met on this visit.

‘The important work that is carried out by British Forces Cyprus and the crucial support HMS Diamond is providing is testament to the varied duties we ask our armed forces to perform.’

Mr Francois travelled to Nicosia to meet soldiers from 28 Engineer Regiment, and other units who are keeping up the UK’s contribution to the UN peacekeeping force.

Almost 50 members of D Company of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment Third Battalion are also based in Nicosia on security patrols.

The final part of the minister’s visit took him on board HMS Diamond at sea.

The Type 45 destroyer has visited Cyprus several times for logistical support as she works with an international team removing chemicals from Syria.

Commander Andy Ingham is the commanding officer of HMS Diamond.

He said: ‘I am pleased he has had the opportunity to meet my ship’s company as it is the people I command 
who make the ship a capable and versatile platform and who give me a great sense of 
pride as the commanding officer of one of Her Majesty’s newest warships.’

THE NEWS IN CYPRUS

The News recently spent a week in Cyprus with soldiers from the Portsmouth area as they patrolled the UN buffer zone.

You can read more in a series of special reports.

· Part 1: In the buffer zone, diplomacy beats combat for Portsmouth soldiers

· Part 2: Meet the Portsmouth reservists who are leading the way on Cyprus task

· Part 3: Frozen in time, the areas of Cyprus tourists never see

· Part 4: Portsmouth infantrymen keep their skills sharp where guns are not needed

· Part 5: Offbeat Cyprus task is regiment’s last before being disbanded