In his first visit to troops deployed overseas, Defence Minister James Heappey was on island this week visiting personnel stationed within the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs).
During his three-day visit, alongside meeting members of the Armed Forces deployed to Cyprus on a range of different missions, he also spent time with Cypriot Defence Minister, Savvas Angelides.
During his discussions with Angelides, the Minister for the Armed Forces reaffirmed the valued friendship and close defence ties between the UK and Cyprus.
It is no secret that the two nations have deep existing defence links, strengthened in recent years by increased military co-operation and several large-scale joint exercises.
Speaking during the visit, Heappey said: “Our bases in Cyprus are an invaluable security asset across an array of arenas. They provide us with a platform for our RAF jets to destroy Daesh, give us an ability to respond to threats in the region, to contribute to United Nations peacekeeping and to combat the barbaric bird trapping trade.
“Yet our bases are only as strong as the people operating them. And it is the expertise, skill and commitment of our Armed Forces here in Cyprus that helps to keep us safe and secure in the UK.”
Whilst in Nicosia, the Minister also met with some of the UK troops based in the city on the UN mission.
UK troops currently make up more than a quarter of the peacekeeping force in Cyprus and Heappey was keen to see how they supported the mission.
From projecting peace on the ground, to destroying Daesh from the skies, the Defence Minister then visited RAF Akrotiri, where UK personnel are deployed on Operation Shader – the UK contribution to the Global Coalition’s counter-Daesh mission in Iraq and Syria.
It was from RAF Akrotiri that the Typhoon and Tornado jets conducted more than 1,700 air strikes that led to the territorial defeat of the terrorist organisation in Syria.
Also during the visit, the minister met personnel from the Regional Standby Battalion the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, who are at 24 hours-notice to deploy anywhere in the region.
He also got to see first-hand how SBA Police officers have worked tirelessly and successfully to combat the illegal practice of bird-trapping on island, alongside the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and various other non-governmental organisations based here, including BirdLife Cyprus.