By Kyriacos Kyriacou-Nicosia
Cyprus will allow to the French air force to fly from “Andreas Papandreou airbase in Pafos in support to operations against the Islamic State, the government has confirmed.
Earlier, the Cypriot government authorised the use of its air space from the British Air force situated in British Sovereign Base in Akrotiri for air strikes in Iraq.
“Not for bombing”
Foreign affairs Minister Ioannis Kasoulides noted however that the Andreas Papandreou base will be used only to support operations and not for bombing.
He said that Cyprus support the efforts to fight terrorism and highlighted the importance of Cyprus’ strategic position, which is situated in a very close distance from Iraq and Syria.
He added that “it is our duty to participate in this battle because it is our civilization and our freedom is at stake from the sick actions of the members of the Islamic State”.
“First time from Cyprus’s”
Defense minister Christoforos Fokaides also noted that the base will not be used for bombing sorties, but only in ‘support operations’.“Due to its geography, Cyprus is well placed to assist in the fight against international terrorism. But our role will be limited to the provision of facilities (at the Paphos airbase),” said Fokaides.
It was not the first time Cyprus has provided facilities to the French military at the airbase, he added.
The operations from the airbase will be the first in the fight against the Islamic State launched from the sovereign territory of Cyprus.
Cameron in Akrotiri
Meantime, British Prime Minister David Cameron was in Cyprus on Thursday night on a surprise visit to Akrotiri where he announced the deployment of two more RAF Tornado fighter bombers to join the attacks on ISIS.
Currently six tornado, equipped with lazer bombs are performing air strikes from the British Base in Akrotiri Cyprus. The jets were authorized by the British Parliament.
The Prime Minister, arriving at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, also promised that the operational life of the aircraft – which was due to be withdrawn from service next year – would be extended until 2016.
The two additional Tornado GR4s will lift the number deployed to eight, enabling them to sustain the tempo of sorties at around two a day.
“Thanking our brave men”
Cameron said: “Less than a week into combat operations in Iraq, I wanted to come here to thank our troops for the vital work they’re doing to defeat these barbaric ISIS terrorists who threaten security not just in Iraq, Syria and the region but on the streets of Britain too.
“It’s an opportunity to hear directly from them about their operations, the challenges they face and what support they need.
“They’ ve already flown a dozen sorties and carried out strikes on four of those missions, successfully hitting eight targets and helping Iraqi forces hold territory but also push back ISIS too”.
“Obviously, these operations are just one element of our strategy. We are also working hard to deliver a training package for Iraqi forces with advisers in Iraq now to assess their needs.
“But today is really about thanking our brave airmen and women. We should never forget the sacrifices they make and the risks they take to make Britain a safer home for all of us and our families.”