Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, situated some 40 miles south of Turkey, 60 miles west of the Syrian coast and 220 miles north of Port Said in Egypt. It has a land area of 9,251 square kilometres and a total population of about 790,000.
Cyprus is the only divided island in the Mediterranean. This division is a result of an attempted coup in 1974 and the occupation of the northern part of the island by Turkey that followed. The island has been divided for 30 years by a United Nations buffer zone known as the 'Green Line'. Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) recognises only the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, which administers the southern two-thirds of the island, but not the so-called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (recognised as such only by Turkey).
The Sovereign Base Areas
The Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, usually referred to as Western Sovereign Base Area (WSBA) and Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA), are those parts of the island which have remained under British jurisdiction since the creation of an independent Republic of Cyprus in 1960. Under the 1960 Treaty of Establishment, HMG retained sovereignty over the SBAs, which cover 3% of the land area of Cyprus, a total of 98 square miles (47.5 at Akrotiri and 50.5 at Dhekelia). However, HMG does not own most of the land. About 60% is privately owned and intensively farmed. Only 20% is MOD-owned land, with the remaining 20% being SBA Crown land (including forests, roads, rivers and Akrotiri Salt Lake (7%)).
In addition to the Sovereign Bases themselves, the Treaty of Establishment also provides for the continued use by the British Government of certain facilities within the Republic of Cyprus, known as Retained Sites, and for the use of specified training areas in the Republic of Cyprus. Please click here to link to a map showing the location of the SBAs within Cyprus. More detailed maps of the two SBAs can be found by clicking on the highlighted areas.
The boundaries of the SBAs were drawn to include the major military installations on the ground and to exclude villages and towns. There are three Republican “enclaves” within the Dhekelia SBA – Ormidhia, Xylotymbou and Dhekelia power station. However, as a result of the coup of 1974 and other developments over the years, about 7,000 Cypriots now live in the SBAs. In addition, approximately 7,800 military and UK-based civilian personnel and their dependants work or live on the Bases.
The SBAs are retained as military bases – not “colonial ” territories. This is the basic philosophy of their administration as stated by HMG in 1960 in the policy declaration usually known as ' Declaration made by Her Majesty’s Governmenty' . This stated that the policy objectives for the administration of the areas were to be:
a. Effective use of the SBAs as military bases;
b. Full co-operation with the Republic of Cyprus;
c. Protection of the interests of those resident or working in the SBAs.
Under the Treaty of Establishment, the Bases remain Sovereign British Territory under the Crown until “the Government of the United Kingdom, in view of changes in their military requirements, at any time decide to divest themselves of the sovereignty or effective control over the SBAs or any part thereof”. There are no plans to withdraw from the SBAs as the military requirement still exists. The Sovereign Base Areas enable Britain to maintain a permanent military presence at a strategically situated point in the Eastern Mediterranean. RAF Akrotiri is also an important staging post for military aircraft and the communications facilities are a vital part of our world-wide links. The SBAs also provide excellent training facilities with reliable weather conditions and demanding terrain.
Because the SBAs are primarily required as military bases and not ordinary dependent territories, the Administration reports to the Ministry of Defence in London. It has no formal connection with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the British High Commission in Nicosia, although there are close informal links with both offices on policy matter