Cyprus to host US rapid response unit for any Mideast evacuations

Cyprus has been used by the United States in the past as a staging point for the evacuation of Americans from Middle East troublespots, such as war-torn Lebanon in 2006. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 08 January 2020

Cyprus to host US rapid response unit for any Mideast evacuations

  • The request came after Iran fired a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases housing US and other foreign troops
  • Last month Washington lifted a 1987 arms embargo on Cyprus as a sign of warmer relations

NICOSIA: Cyprus said Wednesday it had accepted a US request to station a rapid response team on the island in case American diplomatic personnel or civilians need to be evacuated amid rising US-Iranian tensions.
Cyprus “gave its consent for the temporary stationing in Cyprus of a rapid response unit whose task will be to evacuate US diplomatic missions to the region, as well as US citizens, if necessary,” said government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos.
He stressed that the request was accepted “for exclusively humanitarian operations.”
Koushos said the request was made through the US embassy in Nicosia.
“It has been a longstanding practice for the Republic of Cyprus to provide facilities for humanitarian operations on the basis of requests from third countries.
“We will continue to do so as a factor of stability and security in the region... thus taking advantage of our geographical location as well as our excellent relations with all the states of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East,” he added.
The request came after Iran fired a volley of missiles on Wednesday at Iraqi bases housing US and other foreign troops, the Islamic republic’s first action in its promised revenge for the US killing of a top Iranian general in Iraq last week.
Ties between Washington and the island’s internationally recognized government have grown of late — last month Washington lifted a 1987 arms embargo on Cyprus as a sign of warmer relations.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been due to visit Cyprus on Tuesday but postponed an Asian tour due to the tensions with Iran.
A former British colony, Cyprus hosts two sovereign British military bases.
The island has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occuupied its northern third in response to a Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military junta then ruling in Athens seeking union with Greece.
Turkey has since maintained up to 35,000 troops in the breakaway north.
The United States imposed an embargo on the full island in 1987 with an aim to prevent an arms race and encourage a peaceful settlement between the Greek majority and Turkish minority.
Critics say the step has been counterproductive by forcing Cyprus to seek other partners while Turkey, a NATO member, has stationed forces in northern Cyprus since the invasion.
US officials have been concerned that the ban has brought EU member Cyprus closer to Russia, with the island in 2015 signing off on an access deal to its ports.
Under the new act, the United States will still restrict certain sensitive technologies to Cyprus unless the US certifies that the island is denying Russia military vessels port access for refueling and servicing.
In 2006, Cyprus was used as a ‘safe haven’ to evacuate nearly 60,000 civilians from Lebanon in the largest operation of its kind since World War II.


UAE calls on Israel to halt West Bank annexation plan

Updated 01 June 2020

UAE calls on Israel to halt West Bank annexation plan

  • Anwar Gargash said on Twitter that continued Israeli remarks of plans to annex Palestinian lands “must stop”

DUBAI: The UAE has called on Israel to halt a plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank saying it would harm chances of peace.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter that continued Israeli remarks of plans to annex Palestinian lands “must stop.”
“Any unilateral Israeli move will be a serious setback for the peace process,” he wrote.
He said such a move would “undermine Palestinian self determination and constitute a rejection of the international and Arab consensus towards stability and peace.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he will annex parts of the West Bank, including the strategic Jordan Valley and dozens of Jewish settlements, in line with President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan. He has signaled he will begin moving forward with annexation next month.