Cyprus not informed about possible use of British bases against Syria: FM

Cyprus not informed about possible use of British bases against Syria: FM
# 26 August 2013 17:56 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Cyprus on Monday said it had no official information about the possibility of British bases in Cyprus being used for military actions against Syria in response to alleged poisonous gas attacks by government forces against the opponents of President Bashar al Assad, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

"The government has neither been officially advised nor has any other information about the prospect of the British bases on Cyprus being used by Britain and the United States," Cyprus Defense Minister Fotis Fotiou said.

The London Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph said British and American military officials were working on plans to use the British Air Force (RAF) base at Akrotiri on the south shores of Cyprus for attacks on selected Syrian government targets.

In an interview with the state broadcaster, Fotiou described the situation in the eastern Mediterranean region as "very grave."

Britain retained two sites in Cyprus totaling 156 square kilometers when it granted the island independence in 1960 following a four-year long guerilla struggle against colonial rule. Britain claims sovereign rights over the bases, which are not physically separated from the rest of the eastern Mediterranean island except for a small fenced off area containing an airfield and other military installations.

The Cypriot government objects, as a matter of general policy, to the British bases being used against neighboring countries, but Britain claims that such use complies with international treaties that allow military action which serves its defense interests.

The most important of these bases is the RAF base at Akrotiri, which is currently used to provide logistic support for NATO forces in Afghanistan and also hosts extensive eavesdropping electronic installations. It was most recently used by British Tornados taking off for action against Gaddafi's forces in Libya.

Petros Zarounas, an analyst of Middle East affairs, told Cyprus's state broadcaster that he expected some kind of military action against Syria within the next two weeks, after diplomatic and military preparations will have been completed.

He said he expected that any military action against the regime of President Hafez al Assad would take the form of precision attacks with Tomahawk cruise missiles which would be launched from United States navy ships sailing in the Mediterranean.

Zarounas said he believed that this kind of action would not require support by planes taking off form the Akrotiri air base.

He said any attacks would be limited punitive action as the United States would not like to upset the military balance in favor of anti-government forces in the absence of a credible body to take over from Assad.

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