AKROTIRI, Cyprus – Despite widespread reports that a United Kingdom military base on the island would be a launching spot for airstrikes on Syria for using chemical weapons, the Cypriot government said it knew nothing.
Four Royal Air Force Tornado jets from the Akrotiri base in Cyprus fired Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility near Homs where it was assessed that Syria had stockpiled chemicals, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said. ?“Cyprus did not have any participation in this operation and conditions of full security exist in our country,” Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said in a statement, the news agency Reuters said.
That came three days after Kathimerini said Tornado bombers at RAF Akrotiri were on standby and ready to strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, just days after a US missile destroyer left Larnaca port.
A lot of activity was taking place at Britain’s Tornado base in Cyprus, according to the British press but apparently the Cypriot government didn’t know, given the response from President Nicos Anastasiades’ government.
“The Authorities of the Republic of Cyprus have been monitoring the situation from the first moment, however, Cyprus did not receive any prior briefing,” Prodromou said.?Neither the airspace of Cyprus, or its flight information region – a huge swathe of eastern Mediterranean airspace – was used, he said without explaining where the jets flew when they took off from the island.
“We hope that it will subsequently be possible for military operations to be avoided in Syria and that sources of danger in this neighboring country will be addressed with peaceful means and through dialogue,” he said even though that path has failed utterly.?Britain retains two sovereign bases in Cyprus, a colony until independence in 1960. There are about 3,100 British troops on the island.