Syria Crisis: UK, US Troops To Use Akrotiri Base - Warships En Route
(Updated) If the UK decides to attack Syria after last week's suspected chemical weapons attack on civilians, it could use Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus as a supply route, according to a report by the state broadcaster. Warships from the US and the UK are reportedly en route to Cyprus, which is 110km away from Syria by sea.
In the latest development, Foreign Minister Yiannis Kassoulides said he did not expect Akrotiri to play a major role in a potential conflict, reports Reuters.
However, Akrotiri has been used in past conflicts in Afghanistan for soldiers en route to the theatre of war, and in this case, is just 100km away from the Syrian coast. News reports from the US and UK suggest that an attack on Syria is being seriously considered by western allies, and could be as early as this week.
In Syria, the weapons inspectors' vehicles came under sniper fire in Damascus, said the UN spokesperson. The team had to replace the vehicle before going back to the zone where the suspected chemical weapons were used. The inspection was subsequently postponed for one day to 'improve preparedness and safety for the team," according to the UN spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the US is convinced that Bashar al Assad's military forces used chemical weapons last Wednesday, August 21st, according to a senior US official as reported by The New York Times.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it has confirmed the nerve gas attack:
"SOHR activists in the bombarded towns were able to interview doctors, residents and witnesses of the massacre. We have received medical reports and testimonies that confirm that most of the martyrs were killed as a result of exposure to poisonous gasses. There is also documented evidence in the form of tens of videos which the SOHR acquired showing the dead with no discernible injuries, wounds or signs of blood, which means that they were killed by unconventional weapons."
The battle lines are clearly being drawn. Russia has warned that military intervention in Syria would be a tragic mistake. Russia controls a naval base at Tartus, and has resisted the prospect of military intervention since the beginning of the civil war in Syria almost two years ago. Backing Assad and taking advantage of the conflict has given Russia much more power in the country and the Eastern Mediterranean region.
One of the biggest questions is whether Russia would actually join forces with Assad against allies US and UK, which are backed by France and Turkey - at least according to their rhetoric. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that the Assad regime had nothing to gain from the chemical weapons scandal and that he was sure that the attacks on UN inspectors would be blamed on the Syrian government. Attacking Syria would be a 'tragic mistake', said Lavrov.
France and Turkey are aligned policy-wise, with France demanding that the UN investigate the alleged chemical weapons use last week, and Turkey having long been of the opinion that Assad has to go. As an ex-French colony, Syria has a history with France. Turkey has also had territorial disputes with Syria, which shot down one of Turkey's warplanes over the Mediterranean Sea last June
The Turkish province of Hatay was originally part of Syria's territory and voted by referendum to become part of Turkey. Tensions along the shared border rose last year when Turkey accused Syrian troops of firing into its territory and injuring Turkish soldiers.
Iran has joined in the fray, threatening to attack Israel if western allies attack Syria.
NATO has said it is watching the situation closely. If the conflict widens, hundreds of thousands of refugees could flood neighboring countries, including Cyprus. Syria has a population of 20.8 million.
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