By Kyriacos Kyriacou – Nicosia
RAF jets have flown for the fifth time on Monday from the British Sovereign Base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, since the British parliament authorised for air strikes targeting Islamic state (IS) militants.
Six tornado jets are participating in the missions, equipped with laser guided bombs and missiles.
Unknown whether they are firing
On Saturday morning two jets took off from the base and returned late at night. It was the first British military mission in Iraq.
The British government said that there was no use of weaponry during the first mission. It added that the jets only identified targets and collected information, which could be useful for the Iraqi government forces. However, since then the jets carried out at least four more missions in pairs and it was not announced whether they engaged in combat.
Cyprus’s strategic position
The Cypriot government authorised the use of its air space and said that it will provide any help possible to fight terrorism.
It is worth mentioning the importance of Cyprus’ strategic position, which is situated in a very close distance from Iraq and Syria.
Asking for protection
However, this also means that the small island could be in danger. It has no fighting jets and its ground and naval forces are considered far from powerful.
The government officially has asked from UK and other countries for protection if needed.
Cyprus Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, when asked by reporters whether Cyprus had made any preparations for a possible terrorist attack by jihadists, said police have taken the necessary security measures “based on information received daily”. Security had been upped since the Akrotiri sorties began on Saturday, he added.
“The government receives information from foreign organisations, evaluates it and then takes the appropriate action,” said Nicolaou on Monday.
“No reason to panic”
Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides said there was no reason for people to panic. “The fight against terrorism is a threat to all humanity, and a threat to Cyprus,” he said after a meeting with the leader of the European Party, Demetris Syllouris.
“We want to contribute to the effort of the international community. We are taking all measures. Our attitude is to be both measured and careful,” the minister said.
Fokaides also met Britain’s new High Commissioner Damian Roderic Todd, who welcomed Cyprus’ support and resolve in helping tackle the jihadist threat. Defeating the threat would will require an intelligent and patient approach, he said.
Two parties express concerns
However, at least two political parties have express concerns for the use of the British Based in Cyprus against ISIS.
The Greens said the use of the British bases, and possibly the use of the Andreas Papandreou air base in Paphos by other Western powers should come with conditions. Opposition AKEL MEP Neoclis Sylikiotis said his party was adamant that Cyprus should not be use as a base for any war.