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Cyprus ‘not involved’ as UK uses Akrotiri base to bomb Yemen (Video, Update 2)

an raf typhoon aircraft takes off to join the u.s. led coalition from raf akrotiri
File photo: A British Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft takes off from Akrotiri bound for Yemen [Reuters]

The United Kingdom is on Friday using its Akrotiri base on the island to conduct bombing raids in Yemen, forcing the government to clarify that Cyprus was not involved in any such military activity.

The comment came from the foreign ministry, hours after Britain confirmed it had used the RAF base at Akrotiri to bomb Houthi positions in Yemen.

The UK, US strikes aimed at positions held by the Houthi movement, a Shia Islamist organisation allegedly backed by Iran which controls much of the west of Yemen and has been attacking ships passing through the Red Sea in response to the west’s support for Israel.

In the early hours of the morning, the UK’s Defence Minister Grant Shapps announced that “Royal Air Force Typhoon [aircraft] conducted precision strikes on two Houthi military targets alongside United States forces.” Alongside the statement, he included a video of a Eurofighter Typhoon taking off from the RAF’s Akrotiri base in Cyprus.

In statements to the Cyprus News Agency later Friday, the spokesperson of the foreign ministry Theodoros Gotsis said the Cyprus government was observing a worsening of the security situation in the region and emphasises the “need for an immediate end to actions that threaten free and safe navigation and endanger the wider security of area”.

Asked to comment on the take-off of British aircraft from Akrotiri, Gotsis said that “regarding the use of UK bases in Cyprus, the government is in constant communication with the United Kingdom, always within the framework defined from the Treaty of Establishment and its accompanying documents”.

“The security of Cyprus, as well as our relations with states in the region constitutes the highest priority of the government during these contacts,” he added.

Gotsis said Cyprus was “systematically monitoring the alarming developments in the Red Sea in close coordination with the EU and in constant contact with other regional and international partners.

“We observe that the security situation in our region has deteriorated, which is of great concern to us. As a state in the region with a significant maritime footprint, we clearly emphasise the need for an immediate end to all actions that threaten free and safe navigation and endanger the wider security of the region”.

He also stressed the need for the implementation of international law and the relevant Resolutions of the UN Security Council for the region as well as the importance of demonstrating maximum restraint to avoid further escalation in the Red Sea and the wider region.

Speaking to British television channel Sky News, Britain’s Armed Forces Minister James Heappey confirmed early on Friday that four Eurofighter Typhoons and two Voyager-type aerial refuelling aircraft departed Akrotiri for Yemen.

He said the bombs had “successfully” hit their targets, and that all the aircraft had safely returned to Akrotiri by 5am local time.

Strikes were reported in the city of Sanaa, which serves as the Houthi movement’s headquarters, as well as the Red Sea port of Hudayah, and a number of other cities in Houthi-controlled western Yemen.

Speaking after the launching of the strikes, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, “the Houthi militia have carried out a series of dangerous and destabilising attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea, threatening UK and other international ships, causing major disruption to a vital trade route and driving up commodity prices.”

“This cannot stand. The UK will always stand up for freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade. We have therefore taken limited, necessary, and proportionate action in self-defence … against targets tied to these attacks, to degrade Houthi military capabilities and protect global shipping,” he said.

Meanwhile, Russia on Friday requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council for Friday regarding the strikes. According to Russia’s Tass news agency, the meeting has been scheduled for 5pm Cyprus time.

Elsewhere, Iran’s Foreign ministry condemned the strikes as “a clear violation of Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and said they were being conducted in violation of international law.

Additionally, in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Houthi movement spokesman Mohammed Abdusalam said “there is absolutely no justification for this aggression against Yemen, as there was no threat to international navigation in the Red and Arabian Seas.”

“The targeting was and will continue to affect Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine,” he said, adding that the US and UK are “wrong” to think that the strikes will “deter Yemen from supporting Palestine and Gaza.”

Earlier, the Houthis’ deputy ‘foreign minister’ Hussein al-Izzi had told a Yemeni television channel that the United Kingdom and the United States, which has also conducted strikes on Friday, will pay a “heavy price” for this “blatant aggression”.

The Houthi movement has access to long-range missiles, though it is believed the maximum range of any of their equipment is 1,950 kilometres – less than the distance between Yemen and Cyprus.

A Cypriot Foreign Ministry spokesperson told the Cyprus Mail, “the safety and security of nautical access in the Red Sea is of paramount importance, and the Republic of Cyprus is in constant contact with other states about this matter.”

However, he noted, “the Republic of Cyprus is not involved in [military] operations in the region.”

Cyprus Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis told the Cyprus Mail a statement would be made on the matter later.

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