By Peter Stevenson
THE BRITISH Bases in Cyprus will not play a major role in any possible military strike against Syria, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said yesterday, responding to recent reports in the British press that forces were gathering on the island.
The Guardian reported yesterday that warplanes and military transporters had begun arriving at the Akrotiri airbase, less than 100 miles from the Syrian coast, in a sign of increasing preparations for a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria.
Two commercial pilots who regularly fly from Larnaca told the Guardian that they had seen C-130 transport planes from their cockpit windows as well as small formations of fighter jets on their radar screens, which they believe had flown from Europe.
Residents near the British airfield, a sovereign base since 1960, also say activity there has been much higher than normal over the past 48 hours according to the Guardian.
Kasoulides told the state broadcaster that he was in constant contact with the countries that might be involved in a possible military strike and he has been assured that no surprises would be sprung with regards to the arrival of forces on the island.
“No decisions have been made and we are not in a position to know what means will be used if a potential military strike takes place,” he said.
The foreign minister explained that no discussions would take place with the political parties because the government had yet to be made aware of what shape any military strike may take.
“I am under the impression that the British Bases in Cyprus will not play a primary role in any possible military strike as it is not necessary, because it will most likely not be a long-lasting military strike it will probably be tactical short-term warning strikes,” he said.
Opposition AKEL said that Cyprus should not allow British Bases to be used as a military hub for any possible attacks on Syria.
MP Giorgos Loucaides said that the foreign minister’s stance was paving the way for Cyprus’ participation in the war against the Assad regime.
“The involvement of Cyprus in a war the main purpose of which is the deployment of forces in the region and the distribution of wealth, can only damage efforts to solve the Cyprus problem,” Loucaides said.
The department of Civil Aviation is preparing for an increase in air traffic in the coming days due to the recent troubles in Syria, according to official Nicos Nicolaou.
“We have always received notifications from the UK whether there will be increased movement within our airspace so we are expecting to be informed by British Base representatives about any possible extra arrivals,” he said.
He added that the department has not noticed any recent increases in air traffic.
A Sovereign Base Area spokesman told the Cyprus Mail that they are currently waiting on information from the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
“So far there have not seen any changes to flight schedules or number of flights coming in and out of Akrotiri,” the spokesman said.
Limassol port had recently been used by the US and Russia as a port of call for their warships in the area to give their crews some rest and recuperation.
The Port Authority was unwilling to disclose any information regarding any possible increases in arrivals to Limassol port.
“We have ships from the USA, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany, Bangladesh and the UK all arriving to the island as it is considered to be a very safe destination where soldiers and crewmen can get some R&R,” a port authority spokesman said.