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Cyprus ‘kept in the dark’ on use of British bases for Israel-Gaza war

bases shapps at akrotiri earlier this week
Grant Shapps at RAF Akrotiri on Wednesday

The government stayed mum on Saturday amid increasing demands for answers from both the UK and Cyprus on how the British bases on the island are reportedly being used to support Israel’s war on Gaza.

The development comes after Declassified UK published a report on Friday suggesting Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides may have been kept in the dark over how exactly the British government is using its bases to support Israel’s bombing in Gaza.

It said the UK military told the British parliament it has no “formal requirement” to inform Cyprus of its military and intelligence operations from the island.

But opposition party Akel charged Cyprus’ government owed answers to its people, questioning what steps the state had made towards the UK to confirm reports that the bases were used by British and US forces to send military support to Israel.

“Is the government of our country not in a position to know what is happening on our country’s grounds and inform Cypriot people? Does the government recognise the dangers of using Cypriot territory for the war waging in the Middle East?” it asked.

Akel said it wanted to make it crystal clear “that our island and the colonial remnants of the British bases cannot be used to facilitate the war crimes that Israel is serially committing in Gaza.”

Asked to comment on the report, a government source said they could not comment.

Though Declassified UK reported 32 flights had been deployed from the British bases in Cyprus to Israel, the government previously said it had no information on the matter.

Past reports in Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Declassified UK claimed the Akrotiri bases were also being used by the US to supply equipment to Israel. Christodoulides responded at the time that there is “no such information, our country cannot be used as a base for war operations.”

Sources previously told the Cyprus Mail that this may have been a clever way for Christodoulides to dodge a bullet, by referring to Cyprus. The technicality, if one seeks to scrutinise his statement, lies in the fact that the bases are not Cyprus. They are sovereign British territory.

Earlier this week, UK armed forces minister James Heappey told parliament that “as a trusted partner, the Ministry of Defence routinely engages with the Republic of Cyprus on issues relating to the Sovereign Base Areas.”

He added: “This includes, where appropriate, informing the Republic of Cyprus of flights into and from RAF Akrotiri, although there is no formal requirement to do so.”

Heappey’s responses came as a result of a question from Kenny MacAskill, Alba MP for East Lothian.

MacAskill also asked about US operations on the island but was told “The ministry of defence does not comment on information about Allies’ operations,” according to Declassified UK.

“That the ministry of defence can tell us the number of flights the RAF have made to Israel yet refuse to divulge what the Americans are doing is perverse,” he told the publication.

On November 21, Heappey confirmed to lawmakers in the UK that the number of British troops in Cyprus had surged by around 1,000, following Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7.

He cited their presence was to “support emergency plans and humanitarian efforts in the region.”

British defence minister Grant Shapps was in Cyprus earlier this week at the British bases, where he met Cyprus’ foreign minister and bases personnel.

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