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British defense secretary announces expansion of surveillance operations over Iraq in Nicosia

English.news.cn   2014-08-16 20:12:34

NICOSIA, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) - British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon paid a previously unannounced visit to Cyprus on Saturday, touring a British air force base used in expanding operations in Iraq and meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

Fallon told reporters after talks with Anastasiades at the President's mountaintop summer residence that they discussed the situation in Iraq and bilateral issues.

Fallon said he was able to update the president on the situation in northern Iraq and the humanitarian work that "is being organized from Cyprus."

Sources said the discussion touched upon Britain's intention to provide facilities to other countries for dropping humanitarian aid to thousands of Iraqis displaced by the advance of Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq.

Britain is making use of Akrotiri air force base on the southern coast of Cyprus for surveillance and humanitarian operations.

Though under international treaties the British base is sovereign, meaning that it is considered to be British soil, British authorities make a point of briefing the Cypriot government on any use of the base which would be considered to be outside the scope of its intended operation.

Britain had sent three Tornado surveillance aircraft and four Chinook transport helicopters to the Akrotiri base earlier this week. Two C-130 transport planes also made repeated drops of supplies to the Yazidi population who took refuge on a mountain range.

Fallon was reported by Sky News as saying that the surveillance capability of the Akrotiri base has been expanded by stationing as of today Britain's latest surveillance aircraft, the Rivet Joint, the successor to the outdated Nimrod.

"This will give us a much better picture, more intelligence and analysis of what is happening on the ground which will help the Iraqi government, the Kurdish forces and the Americans," Fallon said.

Major General Richard Cripwell, commander of the British bases in Cyprus, had earlier told a reporter of the British army channel that facilities will be provided to planes of other countries to drop supplies in Iraq.

"We have first class installations here and a team which has gained considerable experience from similar operations in the past," he said.

No details of countries to use Akrotiri air base have been announced, but Germany and Canada were among countries which said they would provide humanitarian aid and also military equipment to the Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.

Editor: yanting
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