In Human Rights, International, Middle East

Since Israel launched its war on Palestinians, Britain has used Cyprus, its ‘unsinkable warship’, to enable Israel’s genocide.

Akrotiri, near Limassol in southern Cyprus, is one of two military sites retained by the British military under the 1960 treaty that saw the island gain independence from British colonial rule. The other base is Dhekelia. The two bases cover 3% of the country.

When Cyprus gained independence in 1960, London struck a deal with Turkey, Greece and Cypriot community leaders. The agreement outlined that Akrotiri and Dhekelia would both remain under British jurisdiction as sovereign territories. They operate beyond the reach of Cypriot authorities.

Akrotiri is about 40 minutes flying time from Tel Aviv.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence has released some, but limited, information on RAF flights between Akrotiri and Israel. It refuses to specify what is being transported and will not disclose details of U.S. activity on these bases.

British Defence Minister Grant Shapps told Parliament on December 5 that Britain would provide “only defensive materiel, or materiel that might help with the recovery of hostages” during the conflict. What did Shapps mean by “materiel that might help with the recovery of hostages”. That could easily include bombs, drones, artillery shells and many other lethal weapons.

Declassified UK, a news website focused on British foreign policy, revealed in November that RAF transport aircraft flew daily from Akrotiri to Tel Aviv between October 13 and 26.

Over the two months prior to October 7, Declassified UK found no record of British military flights from Akrotiri to Israel.

The U.K.’s Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said recently that Britain informs the Republic of Cyprus about flights to and from Akrotiri “where appropriate … although there is no formal requirement to do so”.

Locals have also become aware of the illegal presence of thousands of American soldiers now stationed in Akrotiri.

Akrotiri has also been used to launch fighter jets attacking Yemen.

Akrotiri was used for the Western wars of aggression on Iraq and SyriaThere is therefore ample precedent for Britain using these bases to violate international law.

Local activists now say that the U.K. and U.S. militaries use Cyprus as an “unsinkable warship”. Angry Cypriots have protested at Akrotiri against the alleged funnelling of weapons to Israel for its genocidal war on Gaza.

Athina Kariati, a member of United for Palestine in Cyprus, told Euronews earlier this month:

We don’t want our island to be part of these wars. They are not for democracy, peace or justice. We do know what invasion means. The memory is very fresh… The apartheid and settler genocide that is taking place in Gaza is very close to what we experienced [in Cyprus].

Kariati argues that the oil and gas dealings between Cyprus and Israel helped to shift official support in Cyprus towards Israel, and have also led to a “new militarization” of the island.

“The military presence on and around Cyprus is rising in number and power. It doesn’t make us feel safe in any way,” she told Euronews.

Following a prolonged period of ethnic tensions, Turkey invaded northern Cyprus in 1974, leading to its division into the Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The conflict resulted in widespread death, violence and displacement on both sides.

The government of Cyprus has turned its back on Palestinians

For many years after gaining independence from Britain in 1960, the government of Cyprus backed the Palestinian cause.

Cyprus officially recognized Palestine as a de facto state. About 30 years ago, Cypriot first lady Androulla Vassiliou was declared persona non grata in Israel when a delegation she led attempted to meet with Yasser Arafat, who was then under house arrest.

Relations between Israel and Cyprus began to improve, however, in the 1990s.

In 2010, at a time when Cyprus and Greece were plunged into a financial and economic crisis, Israel and Cyprus established an exclusive economic zone within the territorial waters between them. This clarification was essential for safeguarding Israel’s rights to oil and underwater gas reservoirs.

Under the agreement, the two countries agreed to cooperate in the development of any cross-border resources discovered, and to negotiate an agreement on dividing joint resources.

Israel, Cyprus, the United States and Greece then agreed to enhance cooperation in energy, cyber and infrastructure security in 2019.

Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias visited Israel in March 2011 for the first-ever official visit by a Cypriot head of state. In February 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu visited Cyprus, the first visit of an Israeli Prime Minister to the island.

Israeli energy firm Deled Group is now seeking to work with Cyprus on natural gas exploration and extraction near the Leviathan gas field off the Israeli coast. The large oil and gas field, and the opportunities of joint use, have brought the two countries closer together. Noble Energy, a U.S. company, is also involved in the Leviathan field.

At the same time, Israel has denied to Palestinians all drilling rights.

Leviathan has caused friction between both countries and Turkey. Turkey has claimed that the Greek-Cypriot government in the southern part of the island did not have the authority to sign these deals with Israel, because the deals could be detrimental to the Turkish-Cypriot population in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.

During a visit to Cyprus this week, I discussed these developments while sitting near the Green Line that separates Greek Cyprus from the Turkish-occupied north of the island. In the video below, I also discussed the death of Aaron Bushnell, a U.S. airman who self-immolated at the Israeli embassy in Washington as an act of protest against Israel’s genocide.

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  • evelyn tischer

    I think that Aaron made the decision based on the number of people he would save if he stayed alive, and the number that he would save if he died, and decided that he would save more people dead than alive…

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