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Cyprus Opposition Parties Want British Bases Off Island

June 16, 2019

With the United Kingdom due to leave the European Union in October, opposition parties on Cyprus said the government should seize the opportunity to force out British military bases operated by the country’s former Colonial ruler.

The issue was debated on the request of the center Democratic Party (DIKO), supported by the socialists and two other smaller opposition parties, including far-right ELAM party, said the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

While pposition parties have a majority of seats in Parliament and agreed that the base should go, they disagreed on the timing with no explanation why they couldn’t force the government to take steps to force it.

When Cyprus was given independence in 1960, the United Kingdom kept two sovereign areas totaling 253 square kilometers (157.203 square miles) or 3 percent of the territory of Cyprus to use as military bases.

One of the bases at Akrotiri, on the south shores of Cyprus, is an important air base providing support to NATO operations in the Mediterranean and as far as Afghanistan. According to military specialists, it is also one of the most important electronic surveillance hubs in the NATO network.

DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos said the so-called Brexit of the UK leaving the EU provided an historic opportunity for the Cypriot government to raise the issue of terminating the presence of British bases in Cyprus, the news report said.

He also said a decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in an application by Mauritius, and a resolution of the UN General Assembly declaring illegal the presence of the Diego Garcia base in the Chagos Islands was an opportunity Cyprus should not miss.

Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia is a British Ministry of Defence facility leased to the United States Navy, located on the atoll Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Andros Kyprianou, leader of the Communist AKEL, the biggest opposition party in the Cypriot Parliament, said the bases violate the country’s sovereign rights but that the Brexit process wasn’t the right time to raise the issue as the United Kingdom said the bases aren’t in the EU.

President Nicos Anastasiades’ ruling DISY party also said the time isn’t right to make the bases get off the island without explaining why as they have been there for 59 years. DISY said if Brexit happens that that Cyprus and the UK need to to agree on arrangements to avoid hardship for Cypriots living within the bases territory and for British expatriates, mostly pensioners, living in Cyprus.

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