‘No com­ment’ on se­cret base

Cyprus Today - - SOUTH CYPRUS -

SOUTH Cyprus said on Wed­nes­day it had no com­ment on a US of­fi­cial re­port show­ing that the is­land se­cretly hosted a $70 mil­lion Amer­i­can he­li­copter base for four years. The base was qui­etly shut down in 2017.

Greek Cypriot gov­ern­ment spokesman Pro­dro­mos Pro­dro­mou told the [South] Cyprus News Agency (CAN): “The gov­ern­ment of the Re­pub­lic has no com­ment. Ques­tions should be ad­dressed to the US au­thor­i­ties.”

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port on ABC news, cit­ing a gov­ern­ment doc­u­ment, over nearly four years the US State Depart­ment spent some $70 mil­lion on a base that was “quickly set up and served lit­tle clear pur­pose be­fore its quiet clos­ing last year”.

It said the base, which was es­tab­lished in Septem­ber 2013 and closed in Au­gust 2017, hosted five he­li­copters and ap­prox­i­mately 40 gov­ern­ment con­trac­tors at a cost of about $20 mil­lion per year, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port from the State Depart­ment Of­fice of the In­spec­tor Gen­eral (OIG).

The OIG re­port states that the base “pro­vided the depart­ment a re­gional con­tin­gency ca­pa­bil­ity with a fo­cus on air bridge sup­port to Em­bassy Beirut and as­sisted in the trans­porta­tion and (if needed) the evac­u­a­tion of per­son­nel from the em­bassy”.

The lo­ca­tion of the base on the is­land was not ev­i­dent from the re­port but the most likely spot is the Bri­tish sov­er­eign base at RAF Akrotiri.

“For more than three years, the depart­ment main­tained a sub­stan­tial re­gional avi­a­tion base in Cyprus with­out con­duct­ing a cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis to de­ter­mine the avi­a­tion ca­pac­ity needed or the ap­pro­pri­ate re­source al­lo­ca­tion to sup­port the mis­sion,” the re­port said.

The OIG said it had not re­ceived any doc­u­men­ta­tion con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous with the base’s open­ing that de­scribed its func­tion. The open­ing and the clos­ing of the avi­a­tion base in Cyprus were not ap­proved by the State Depart­ment’s Avi­a­tion Gov­ern­ing Board (AGB).

Depart­ment of­fi­cials with whom the OIG spoke stated that the de­ci­sion to es­tab­lish the base was made quickly, pos­si­bly as a re­ac­tion to ris­ing ten­sions in the re­gion. On the ba­sis of its work, OIG be­lieves that the then-Un­der Sec­re­tary for Man­age­ment likely made the de­ci­sion with­out con­sult­ing the AGB.

The depart­ment also did not seek the AGB’s ap­proval for clos­ing the avi­a­tion op­er­a­tion, which oc­curred on short no­tice.

Ac­cord­ing to ABC News, Pa­trick Kennedy, the se­nior State Depart­ment of­fi­cial who made the de­ci­sion to es­tab­lish the base at time, told the chan­nel he strongly dis­agreed with the OIG’s con­clu­sions about its use­ful­ness, and said it was a “ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion”.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the State Depart­ment did not re­spond to ABC News’ re­quest for com­ment but Mr Kennedy, who’s now re­tired, told them the base was es­tab­lished due to very real se­cu­rity con­cerns in the re­gion and, de­spite the OIG’s as­ser­tion, “there were no other op­tions.”

Two for­mer US of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the Cyprus air base told ABC News they agreed the base seemed to serve no clear pur­pose. One said that for the most part the con­trac­tor pi­lots spent their time fly­ing lazy loops over the is­land to keep up their pro­fi­ciency. “It was a flight club,” the ex-of­fi­cial said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.