“Why should I be answerable when even the U.S. State Department itself was unaware until recently when a report came out,” President Nicos Anastasiades said answering questions over an alleged secret U.S. airbase in Cyprus.
According to Cyprus Mail, Anastasiades said that the base was likely used for humanitarian missions. However, he avoided directly addressing the question of whether his government was aware of the U.S. operation.
Earlier in the week, ABC News said that a U.S. government document said the State Department spent about $70 million on the base that was “quickly set up and served little clear purpose before its quiet closing last year.”
According to the ABC report, the base that was established in September 2013 and closed in August 2017, in which time it hosted five helicopters and approximately 40 government contractors at a cost of about $20 USD million per year.
The base allegedly provided a regional contingency capability with a focus on air bridge support to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and assisted in the transportation and possible evacuation of COM personnel from the embassy.
Opposition MPs asked for more information about the use of the base and particularly what purpose the helicopters were serving. In a brief statement, the Foreign Ministry said that Foreign Minister Christodoulides agreed to appear before a House committee and answer questions.
On Thursday, speculation that the U.S. helicopters, Apache and Chinook, were based in Akrotiri, within the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) appeared to be confirmed with screenshots taken from Google Earth.
Andreas Pentaras, former head of Cyprus’ Secret Service, said that the so-called airbase was actually a heliport at Akrotiri that was built in the mid-1960s.
“It was then that a deal was struck between Archbishop Makarios and the United States allowing American U2 spy planes to make use of the British bases,” he said.