Close Ties to Israel Risk Cyprus Being Drawn Into Lebanon War

By Jason Ditz – Antiwar.Com

While there is much focus on a possible Israeli re-invasion of Lebanon, the first since 2006, it appears the nearby island nation Cyprus may become embroiled, with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warning Cyprus against giving Israel access to military bases or airports.

“Opening Cypriot airports and bases to the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon would mean that the Cypriot government is part of the war and the resistance will deal with it as part of the war,” Nasrallah admonished.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides meantime has downplayed the possibility of such entanglement in the conflict, insisting Cyprus remains uninvolved and will remain uninvolved in Israel’s wars.

However, Cyprus’ involvement in the Gaza War and potential involvement in the invasion of Lebanon, is more complicated than this blanket denial claims. Turkey, for one, has been very public in accusing Cyprus of “serious militarization” that it claims is turning the small nation into a military base targeting Gaza.

At the core of the issue are British military bases in Cyprus. The United States openly uses one of these bases to transport American arms to Israel for use in the Gaza War. Britain refuses to confirm or deny whether its bases are used by Israel to bomb the Gaza Strip, but it has been reported that Britain has flown surveillance flights over the Gaza Strip from Cypriot bases.

Cyprus has had close economic and political ties to Israel for years, which raises suspicion among Hezbollah leadership about its position in the event of a war. Further, while Cyprus is not a NATO member, it has close ties to Greece, a NATO member, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has close ties to Turkey, another NATO member.

As a member of the European Union, whose major members have been working to keep the fighting on the Israel-Lebanon border from escalating into an all-out war, Cyprus is keen to remain at least superficially neutral.

A large, lush island, Cyprus has been populated since well before 2000 BC. Its strategic location has resulted in its occupation by multiple major powers, including the ancient Greeks, Roman, Arab caliphates, Venetian, and Ottoman Empires, and finally the British starting in 1878.

A former British colony, Cyprus only became independent in 1960. The island’s population is sharply divided: about 77% have a Greek Christian heritage and about 18% are Turkish Muslim, who live mostly in the north. After years of intercommunal violence, Cyprus came under Greek sway in 1974 with a coup backed by the Greek military junta. This precipitated a Turkish invasion that led to the establishment of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, which Turkey alone recognizes. The Republic of Cyprus became an EU member nation in 2004.

Only about 100 miles from the Lebanese coast, war could easily bring Cyprus into range of Hezbollah rocket fire.

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