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Akrotiri and Dhekelia (Greek: Ακρωτήρι και Δεκέλεια, Akrotiri kai Dhekeleia; Turkish language: Ağrotur ve Dikelya), officially the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, is a British Overseas Territory on the island of Cyprus. The Areas, which include bases and other land, were retained by the British, under the 1960 treaty of independence, agreed and signed by the United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey and representatives from the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, which granted independence to the Crown colony of Cyprus.

The territory comprises two Areas. One is Akrotiri (Greek: Ακρωτήρι, IPA: [akro̞ˈtiri]; Turkish language: Ağrotur), or the "Western Sovereign Base Area" (or WSBA), which includes two main bases at RAF Akrotiri and Episkopi Cantonment, plus all of Akrotiri Village's district (including Limassol Salt Lake) and parts of eleven other village districts.[1] The other Area is Dhekelia (Greek: Δεκέλεια, IPA: [ðe̞ˈke̞lia]; Turkish: Dikelya), or the "Eastern Sovereign Base Area" (or ESBA), which includes a base at Ayios Nikolaos plus parts of twelve village districts.[2]


The Sovereign Base Areas were created in 1960 by the Treaty of Establishment, when Cyprus achieved independence from the British Empire. The United Kingdom desired to retain sovereignty over these areas, as this guaranteed the use of UK military bases in Cyprus, including RAF Akrotiri, and a garrison of the British Army. The importance of the bases to the British is based on the strategic location of Cyprus, at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, close to the Suez Canal and the Middle East; the ability to use the RAF base as staging post for military aircraft; and for general training purposes.

In 1974, following a military coup by the Greek-Cypriot National Guard attempting to achieve enosis (union with Greece), Turkey invaded the north of Cyprus, leading to the establishment of the internationally unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This did not affect the status of the bases. Greek Cypriots fleeing from the Turks were permitted to travel through the Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area, and were given humanitarian aid, with those from Achna setting up a new village (Dasaki Achnas or Achna Forest) which is still in the Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area.[3] The Turkish advance halted when it reached the edge of the Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area to avoid military conflict with the United Kingdom. In the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area a tented refugee camp was set up at "Happy Valley" (part of the Episkopi Cantonment)[4] to house Turkish Cypriots fleeing from Limassol and the villages surrounding the Area, until in 1975 they were flown out of RAF Akrotiri via Turkey to northern Cyprus.[5] Some Greek Cypriot refugees remain housed on land in the parts of Trachoni[6] and Kolossi[7] villages that fall within the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area.[8]


In July 2001, violent protests were held at the bases by local Cypriots, angry at British plans to construct radio masts at the bases as part of an upgrade of British military communication posts around the world. Locals had claimed the masts would endanger local lives and cause cancer, as well as have a negative impact on wildlife in the area. The British and Cypriot governments jointly commissioned health research from the University of Bristol and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Cyprus, and that research project reported in 2005 that there was no evidence of health problems being caused by electromagnetic fields from the antennae.[9] The Sovereign Base Areas Administration has carried out assessments and surveys into the effects on wildlife, which have fed into an "Akrotiri Peninsula Environmental Management Plan", published in September 2012.[10]

The United Kingdom has shown no intention of ceding the base areas in their entirety to Cypriot control, although it has offered to cede 117 square kilometres (45 sq mi) of farmland as part of the rejected Annan Plan for Cyprus. As of 2015, around 3,000 troops of British Forces Cyprus are based at Akrotiri and Dhekelia. Ayios Nikolaos Station, in the ESBA, is a GCHQ electronic intelligence listening station of the UKUSA intelligence network.[11]

The election of left-wing Dimitris Christofias as Cypriot president in February 2008 prompted concern in the United Kingdom. Christofias has pledged to remove all foreign military forces from the island as part of a future settlement of the Cyprus dispute, calling the British presence on the island a "colonial bloodstain".[12]

Criticisms and Speculation

During the Syrian Civil War of 2013, on 29 August 2013, some Cypriot and British media sources speculated that long-range ballistic missiles fired from Syria in retaliation for proposed British involvement in military intervention against the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad, could hit Cyprus, and could potentially deliver chemical weapons. In some Cypriot media, the proposed interdiction of the Syrian civil war, utilising Akrotiri and Dhekelia, could recklessly endanger the Cypriot populations near to those bases.[13] The Cypriot foreign minister, Ioannis Kasoulides moved to calm Cypriot concerns on 27 August 2013, saying that the British bases were unlikely to play a major part in any intervention.[14]


In January 2010, a newspaper article appeared in the mainstream British press [15] claiming that as a result of budgetary constraints arising from the late 2000s recession, the British Ministry of Defence drew up controversial[16] plans to withdraw the United Kingdom's 3,000 strong garrison from Cyprus and end the use of Cyprus as a staging point for ground forces. Since this time, the Labour government under whom the proposal appeared has been replaced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition and their defence review did not mention the issue.

On 15 Dec 2012 in a written statement to the lower house the Secretary of State for Defence of the UK government (Phillip Hammond) revealed the findings of a report on the SBA military bases following the completion of a review of their operations by Lord Ashcroft: "The Sovereign Base areas are in a region of geo-political importance and high priority for the United Kingdom’s long term national security interests...Our military personnel, United Kingdom civilians and locally employed personnel in the Sovereign Base Areas make a major contribution to the national security of the United Kingdom and will continue to do so in the future." [17]

Constitution and governance

A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter at RAF Akrotiri.

The SBAs were retained in 1960 to keep military bases in areas under British sovereignty, (along with the rights retained to use other Sites in what became the territory of the Republic). That makes them different from the other remaining British Overseas Territories, except for the British Indian Ocean Territory which was similarly carved out of a former colony as a site for a military base, although in that case the base was to be used by the United States and the inhabitants (Chagossians) were all removed.

The basic philosophy of their administration was declared by Her Majesty's Government in 'Appendix O' to the 1960 treaty with Cyprus, which provided that the British government intended:

  • Not to develop the Sovereign Base Areas for other than military purposes.
  • Not to set up and administer "colonies".
  • Not to create customs posts or other frontier barriers between the Sovereign Base Areas and the Republic.
  • Not to set up or permit the establishment of civilian commercial or industrial enterprises except insofar as these are connected with military requirements, and not otherwise to impair the economic commercial or industrial unity and life of the Island.
  • Not to establish commercial or civilian seaports or airports.
  • Not to allow new settlement of people in the Sovereign Base Areas other than for temporary purposes.
  • Not to expropriate private property within the Sovereign Base Areas except for military purposes on payment of fair compensation.[18]
  • The ancient monuments and antiquity (in particular the site and remains of Curium, Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates near Curium,the Stadium of Curium and the Church and remains of the Monastery of St. Nicholas of the Cats) will be administered and maintained by the Republic of Cyprus. Licenses for antiquity excavation will be issued by the Republic but will be subject to the consent of the authorities of the Sovereign Base Areas. Movable antiquities found in excavations or discovered will be the property of the Republic[19]..

According to the Ministry of Defence,

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 matters.[20]

The territory is administered by an Administrator, who is also the Commander of British Forces Cyprus (from November 2012 Major General Richard J.Cripwell[21]). The Administrator is officially appointed by the British monarch, on the advice of the Ministry of Defence. The Administrator has all the executive and legislative authority of a Governor of an overseas territory. A Chief Officer is appointed, and is responsible to the Administrator for the day-to-day running of the civil government, with subordinate Area Officers responsible for the civil administration of the two areas. No elections are held in the territory, although British citizens are normally entitled to vote in United Kingdom elections (as British Forces or overseas electors).

The Areas have their own legal system, distinct from the United Kingdom and Cyprus. This consists of the laws of the Colony of Cyprus as at August 1960, amended as necessary. The laws of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are kept, as far as possible, the same as the laws of Cyprus. The Court of the Sovereign Base Areas is concerned with non-military offences committed by any person within Akrotiri and Dhekelia, and law and order is maintained by the Sovereign Base Areas Police, while military law is upheld by the Cyprus Joint Police Unit. Fire and Rescue services are provided by the Defence Fire and Risk Management Organisation through stations at Episkopi, Akrotiri, Dhekelia and Ayios Nikolayos. The Defence Medical Services provide emergency ambulance cover based from medical centres in the main bases. All emergency services are accessible from any telephone using the Europe-wide emergency number 112.


Episkopi Bay is on the west coast of Akrotiri.

Map of Akrotiri, Western Sovereign Base Area, BFPO 57.

Map of Dhekelia, Eastern Sovereign Base Area, BFPOs 58 & 59.

Akrotiri and Dhekelia cover 3% of the land area of Cyprus, a total of 254 km2 (98 sq mi) (split 123 km2 (47 sq mi) (47.5) at Akrotiri and 131 km2 (51 sq mi) (50.5) at Dhekelia). Sixty percent of the land is privately owned as freeholds by Cypriot citizens. The other 40% is controlled by the Ministry of Defence as Crown land. In addition to Akrotiri and Dhekelia, the Treaty of Establishment also provided for the continued use by the British Ministry of Defence and the British Armed Forces of certain facilities within Cyprus, known as Retained Sites.

Akrotiri is located in the south of the island, near the city of Limassol (or Lemesos). Dhekelia is in the southeast, near Larnaca. Both of these areas include military bases, as well as farmland and some residential land. Akrotiri is surrounded by territory controlled by the Republic of Cyprus, but Dhekelia also borders on the United Nations (UN) buffer zone and the area controlled by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Ayia Napa lies to the East of Dhekelia. The villages of Xylotymbou and Ormidhia, also in the Republic of Cyprus, are enclaves surrounded by Dhekelia. The Dhekelia Power Station, divided by a British road into two parts, also belongs to Cyprus. The northern part is an enclave, like the two villages, whereas the southern part is located by the sea, and therefore not an enclave, though it has no territorial waters of its own.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in right of the British Crown, and the Crown of the United Kingdom in right of the Sovereign Base Areas Administration, claims territorial waters of up to three nautical miles, and also officially reserves the right according to the laws of the United Nations to extend the claim of up to twelve nautical miles.[22]


When the Areas were being established, the boundaries were deliberately drawn up to avoid centres of population. Approximately 14,000 people live in the Areas. About 7,000 native Cypriots work in the Areas themselves, or on farmland within the boundaries of the Areas. The British military and their families make up the rest of the population.

Persons may in theory be eligible to claim the British Overseas Territories citizenship or the BOTC status through a personal connection to the Areas; but unlike most other British Overseas Territories, there is no provision in the British Nationality Acts by which British citizenship (with the right of abode in the United Kingdom) can either be claimed through automatic entitlement or be applied for by means of registration, from or through a sole personal connection to the Base Areas.

Under the terms of the 1960 agreement with Cyprus establishing the Sovereign Base Areas, the United Kingdom is committed not to use the Areas for civilian purposes. This was stated in 2002 as the primary reason for the exclusion of the Areas from the scope of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002.


There are no economic statistics gathered for Akrotiri and Dhekelia. The main economic activities are the provision of services to the military, as well as limited agriculture. On 1 January 2008 Akrotiri and Dhekelia adopted the Euro along with the rest of Cyprus under the effective control and administration of the Republic and the Government of Cyprus. The Sovereign Base Areas are the only areas under British sovereignty to officially use as the official tender the Euro.[23]


BFBS Radio 1 and 2 are broadcast on FM and can be widely received in Cyprus, but the BFBS Television signal has been confined to the SBAs or encrypted since 1997, for copyright reasons. Limassol BBC Relay is situated here.

Amateur radio

The bases are issued different amateur radio call signs from the Republic of Cyprus. Amateurs on the bases use the International Telecommunication Union prefix of "ZC4" which is assigned to Great Britain. There are about 52 amateurs licensed in this manner. The ITU prefix for the Republic of Cyprus is mainly "5B". The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus uses the unallocated call sign prefix of "1B", but this is only recognized internationally by Turkey. Under ITU regulations it is illegal for an amateur radio operator to communicate via radio with a call sign issued by a state not recognised as a member of the ITU, with the exception of a true emergency.

See also


  1. See map at Akrotiri Area Office page on SBA Administration website
  2. See map at Dhekelia Area Office page on SBA Administration website
  3. PRIO Centre report on Achna
  4. See UN photos of the refugee tents, and an account of the camp on the RAF Akrotiri website
  5. PRIO Centre reports on villages in Limassol region
  6. See PRIO Centre report on Trachoni, and figures for housing units on Trachoni Village website
  7. See PRIO Centre report on Kolossi
  8. See Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Motorway and Speed Limits) Order 2008 for grid refs and street names for Trachoni, Kolossi and Achna Forest refugee settlements
  9. "Bristol University website". Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  10. "SBAA website". Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  11. The UKUSA signals intelligence system is sometimes known as 'ECHELON,' which is a codeword used by the system whose exact status is not clear. Jeffrey Richelson & Desmond Ball, The Ties the Bind: Intelligence Cooperation between the UKUSA Countries, Unwin Hyman, Boston/London and others, 1990, p.194 note 145.
  12. "Cyprus elects its first communist president", The Guardian, 25 February 2008.
  15. Oliver, Jonathan; Smith, Michael (24 January 2010). "Officer Training Corps faces the axe". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  16. Withdrawal of forces from Cyprus, where 3,000 British troops are based, would be controversial.
  17. Question book-new.svg

    This article does not contain any citations or references. Please improve this article by adding a reference. For information about how to add references, see Template:Citation.

  18. "SBAA website". Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  19. Treaty of Establishment,1960,p.112,p.116
  20. "SBAA website". Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  21. "Defence Senior Posts". gulabin. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  22. "Hansard". Retrieved 2013-03-25. 
  23. Theodoulou, Michael. (27 December 2007). Euro reaches field that is for ever England, Times Online. Retrieved 4 January 2008.

Further reading

  • Fouskas, Vassilis K. (2003). Zones of Conflict: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Balkans and the Greater Middle East. Pluto Press. pp. 93, 111. ISBN 0-7453-2030-9. 

External links

Coordinates: 34°35′N 32°59′E / 34.583°N 32.983°E / 34.583; 32.983

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