Defence Minister Savvas Angelides on Wednesday slammed reports that parts of Cyprus had been turned into an air base for the US to wage war on Middle Eastern countries and said it was irresponsible in the current climate to create a false picture when it comes to defence and security.
Opposition Akel mouthpiece Haravghi on Wednesday reported that a fully equipped unit of 500 Americans had been installed at the Andreas Papandreou base in Paphos
It is also said that construction works were underway at the British base of Akrotiri to relocate the Incirlik US base from Turkey to Cyprus.
Angelides slammed the report and referred to statements by the government on January 8 this year confirming that Cyprus had given a positive response to a US request to temporarily station a rapid response unit in Cyprus for the sole purpose of evacuating personnel working in US diplomatic missions in the region, as well as US citizens, if needed. It has nothing to do with launching military operation.
At the time, the government said the request that was submitted clearly had to do with a humanitarian operation and this was why Cyprus’ response was positive within the framework of its long-standing policy.
Cyprus often facilitates humanitarian operations following requests by both EU and non-EU member states as a standard practice.
“As the Republic of Cyprus, we intend to continue all our efforts to enable our country to provide humanitarian facilities to third-country or EU countries,” Angelides said. This was an established role Cyprus has had in the region.
“The status and mission have not changed at all,” said Angelides.
“We have to be careful with such headlines that create a false picture and confuse the issues related to defence and security,” he added.
In 2018, it emerged that the US did have a base in Cyprus between 2013 and 2017, which the government, which appeared to have not been aware of its existence, said at the time was probably used for humanitarian purposes. President Nicos Anastasiades would neither confirm nor deny whether the Cyprus government knew about the US operation.
The story emerged in late 2018 when ABC News, citing a US government document, said the US State Department spent some $70 million on a base in Cyprus that was “quickly set up and served little clear purpose before its quiet closing last year (2017)”.
ABC said the base, established in September 2013 and closed in August 2017, hosted five helicopters and approximately 40 government contractors at a cost of about $20 million per year, according to a report from the US State Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
The OIG report stated that the base “provided the department a regional contingency capability with a focus on air bridge support to Embassy Beirut and assisted in the transportation and (if needed) the evacuation of COM personnel from the embassy.”