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Akrotiri

Akrotiri and Dhekelia, UK-administered areas on the island of Cyprus

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, April 11, 2010 at 07:16:38 :: Akrotiri

The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are two UK-administered areas on the island of Cyprus that comprise the Sovereign Base Areas military bases of the United Kingdom. The bases were retained by the UK following the granting of independence and the eventual transition of Cyprus from a crown colony to an independent sovereign state. The United Kingdom demanded and succeeded in continuing to occupy a portion of Cyprus in the form of military bases because of the strategic location of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea in pursuit of UK interests.

Akrotiri and Dhekelia Sovereign Base Areas indicated in pink.
Cyprus: Akrotiri and Dhekelia Sovereign Base Areas indicated in pink.


The bases are split into Akrotiri (Greek: Ακρωτήρι; Turkish: Agrotur, along with Episkopi Garrison, is part of an area known as the Western Sovereign Base Area or WSBA) and Dhekelia (Greek: Δεκέλεια; Turkish: Dikelya, along with Ayios Nikolaos, is part of the Eastern Sovereign Base Area or ESBA).

The Sovereign Base Areas were created in 1960 by the Treaty of Establishment, when Cyprus achieved independence from the British Empire. The United Kingdom desired to retain sovereignty over these areas, as this guaranteed the use of UK military bases in Cyprus, including RAF Akrotiri, and a garrison of the British Army. The importance of the bases to the British is based on the strategic location of Cyprus, at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, close to the Suez Canal and the Middle East; the ability to use the RAF base as staging post for military aircraft; and for general training purposes.

In 1974, following a military coup by the Greek-Cypriot National Guard attempting to achieve Enosis (union with Greece), Turkey invaded the north of Cyprus, leading to the establishment of the internationally unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. However, this did not affect the status of the bases, and the British, although being one of the guaranteeing powers of the Republic of Cyprus, were not involved in the fighting. Greek Cypriots fleeing from the Turks were permitted to travel through the Dhekelia base, and were given humanitarian aid. The Turkish advance halted when it reached the edge of the base area, as to avoid military conflict with Britain.

The Southern part of the Famagusta province, which includes the resort town of Ayia Napa, remained in Greek-Cypriot hands. The city of Famagusta which lies in the occupied areas of Cyprus gave way to a development of the tourist industry of the southern part of Famagusta province, including resorts like Protaras, Ayia Napa, Paralimni and others that were small villages before 1974.

Akrotiri


For four years after Cypriot independence in 1960, the British government supported the Republic of Cyprus financially. After the intercommunal conflict of 1963-64 it stopped, claiming there was no guarantee that both communities would benefit equally from that money. The Cypriot government is still claiming money for the years from 1964 to now although to date has taken no international legal action to test the validity of its claim. Estimates for the claimed debt range from several hundred thousand to over one billion euro.

In July 2001, violent protests were held at the bases by local Cypriots, angry at British plans to construct radio masts at the bases, as part of an upgrade of British military communication posts around the world. Locals had claimed the masts would endanger local lives and cause cancer, as well as have a negative impact on wildlife in the area. The British government denied these claims.

The UK has shown no intention of surrendering the bases, although it has offered to surrender 117 square kilometres (45 square miles) of farmland as part of the rejected Annan Plan for Cyprus. Today, around 3,000 troops of British Forces Cyprus are based at Akrotiri and Dhekelia. Ayios Nikolaos Station, in the ESBA, is a GCHQ electronic intelligence listening station of the UKUSA intelligence network.

The election of left-wing Dimitris Christofias as Cypriot president in February 2008 has prompted concern in Britain. Christofias has pledged to remove all foreign military forces from the island as part of a future settlement of the Cyprus dispute, calling the British presence on the island a "colonial bloodstain".

When the bases were being established, the boundaries were drawn up to avoid centres of population. However, around 14,000 people live in the bases. Around 7,000 native Cypriots live in the bases, who either work in the bases themselves, or on farmland within the boundaries of the bases. The British military and their families make up the rest of the population.

Skyline of Limassol (Λεμεσός, Lemesos) by night, Sea front, Akrotiri Bay (Greek: Κόλπος Ακρωτηριου, Kolpos Akrotiriou; Turkish: Limasol Körfezi), Cyprus


There is no specific citizenship available for the bases, although some people may be able to claim British Overseas Territories citizenship (BOTC) status. Unlike all other British territories, BOTCs connected solely with the Sovereign Base Areas do not have any entitlement to full British citizenship.

Under the terms of the 1960 agreement with Cyprus establishing the Sovereign Base Areas, the United Kingdom is committed not to use the Areas for civilian purposes. This was stated in 2002 as the primary reason for the exclusion of the Areas from the scope of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002.

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