Jordan stations 2 firefighting helicopters in Cyprus to help as summer fire season arrives

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Jordan on Monday stationed two helicopters in Cyprus to help the Mediterranean island nation combat potential forest fires until it can lease firefighting aircraft of its own for the summer fire season.

Cypriot Environment Minister Maria Panayiotou said the Cypriot government considers firefighting and prevention a national security matter and is also moving to purchase 10 aircraft for that reason.

Panayiotou welcomed the 18 Royal Jordanian Air Force technical staff, crew and pilots who will “stand shoulder to shoulder with us in aerial firefighting.” The Cypriot government will cover the Jordanian mission’s expenses through its deployment. It was unclear how long that will be.

The minister said the Jordanian crews will undergo immediate training to adapt to local conditions and will become operationally ready in the next few days.

The Jordanian helicopters will bolster a fleet of at least three other aircraft from Cyprus’ police and National Guard, including a helicopter from two military bases that Britain maintains on the island, that will be on round-the-clock call.

The Jordanian deployment comes after a Cypriot proposal to set up a regional fire fighting hub in Cyprus from which aircraft and other technology could be dispatched to help put out fires in neighboring countries. Two years ago, Jordan’s King Abdullah II replied by offering to station firefighting aircraft in Cyprus through the summer fire season.

Cyprus, Greece, Jordan and Israel have often assisted each other in recent years by sending firefighting teams, gear and aircraft to help combat massive wildfires.