Last updated: 27 August, 2013

Cyprus sees no key role for UK bases in Syria action

Cyprus said Tuesday it believes British bases on the island will not play a major role in any strikes against Syria, as Britain’s military denied reports of increased activity at one airfield.

Western countries, including Britain, are weighing military action against the Syrian regime over alleged chemical weapons attacks near Damascus, in which hundreds of civilians are said to have died.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told state radio that he believed the British bases on Cyprus would not play a “substantial role” in any international action against Syria.

He added that the government had had “no official information whatsoever for any possible use of the military bases”.

Britain has retained two sovereign military bases on Cyprus — at Akrotiri in the southwest and Dhekelia in the southeast — since the island gained independence from British rule in 1960.

Kassoulides said on Tuesday that Cyprus was in contact with various countries, which he did not name, and had received “assurances that there would be no surprises for Cyprus” on this issue.

A spokesman for British Forces Cyprus also told AFP on Tuesday that “there is no increased activity at RAF Akrotiri at this present time”.

This came as British daily The Guardian reported that military aircraft had started to arrive at the Akrotiri air base.

The newspaper said that residents living near Akrotiri had noticed a surge in activity around the airfield during the past 48 hours.

The United States and its allies are weighing military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the alleged chemical weapons attacks near Damascus last week.