Cyprus Mail

Britain, Cyprus and the use of the British bases

Ministry of Defence handout photo of a RAF Tornado Navigator getting into the cockpit before taking-off on a sortie at RAF Akrotiri

Under the 1960 Treaty of Establishment arrangements, Britain does not require Cypriot consent on how its bases are used, the former foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Saturday.

But he added that it was usual for the British government to inform Cyprus before the bases are used in military operations. Cyprus was apparently not officially informed until midday on Saturday about the attacks on Syria that occurred hours earlier.

A British bases spokesman told the BBC in 2015 “we work on a no-surprise basis and enjoy excellent co-operation with the Republic of Cyprus”.

After Cyprus’ independence in 1960, RAF Akrotiri was never used for direct military action until September 2014 when air attacks were carried out against the Islamic State in Iraq.

Cyprus was traditionally against Britain’s military bases being used in any direct offensive action against neighbouring Arab countries, fearing problems in its relations with states of the region. As part of the war against terror, however, it did not object in 2014 to British airstrikes from Akrotiri against Isis after Iraq itself had requested it.

Then foreign minister Kasoulides said that the “abominable” attacks of November 2015 in Paris had only strengthened Cyprus’ determination to help eliminate the ‘barbarous’ organisation.

This meant Cyprus also did not object in 2015 when Britain offered France the use of Akrotiri for the refuelling of French fighters and serve as a reserve diversion airfield for jets operating from a French aircraft carrier. There were no direct French strikes from the Akrotiri airbase however.

Akrotiri’s proximity to Middle Eastern countries make its use for operations unavoidable as it lies around 180 kilometres from the Syrian coast.


Bases’ timeline

In 1956, British and French warplanes launched strikes from RAF Akrotiri to knock out the Egyptian air force during the Suez Crisis.

In 1960 when Cyprus gained independence, Britain retained 157 square kilometres of territory at Akrotiri/Episkopi and Dhekelia which is using as military bases.

RAF Aktrotiri was used to evacuate 10,000 Britons during the 1974 Turkish invasion. A year later, Vulcan nuclear bombers were withdrawn from the Akrotiri air base.

Following US air strikes on Libya from airfields in UK in 1986, the Akrotiri base was attacked by pro-Libyan militants leading to the wounding of three people.

In September 2014, UK Tornados used RAF Akrotiri for the first time since Suez crisis for direct military action against Isis in Iraq.


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