Warplanes have reportedly arrived at Britain’s military base on Cyprus
Residents have confirmed increased activity at air base
A man rides a motorcycle through the gates at Akrotiri RAF air base near Limassol, Cyprus, yesterday. Photograph: Pavlos Vrionides/AP
Warplanes and troop transport aircraft have reportedly arrived at Britain’s military base at Akrotiri in Cyprus following western threats of action against Syria in response to the government’s alleged use of chemical weapons.
The Guardian quoted two commercial pilots who fly from the international airport at Larnaca as saying they have seen C-130 transport aircraft and fighter jets on radar screens. Residents have also confirmed increased activity at the base.
Akrotiri is less than 180km (112 miles) from the Syrian coast.
Cypriot defence minister Fotis Fotiou said: “The government has neither been officially advised nor has any . . . information about the prospect of the British bases . . . being used by Britain or the US.”
Cypriot foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides predicted that the “British bases won’t play any primary role . . . because they are not needed”, since it is believed US warships in the eastern Mediterranean will launch cruise missile strikes on Syria rather than use land-based aircraft.
Nevertheless, there was reportedly a gathering of senior western military figures at Akrotiri last week discussing contingency arrangements.
This meeting attracted the attention of the Egyptian press, which castigated the Cypriot government for permitting Britain to plan for action from the base areas.
Akrotiri was most recently used by RAF tornados to bomb targets in Libya. While its airfields may not play a “primary role” in any western strikes on Syria, Britain’s high-tech communications domes on Mount Olympus are expected to be of primary importance.