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Akrotiri and Dhekelia

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Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
Περιοχές Κυρίαρχων Βάσεων Ακρωτηρίου και Δεκέλειας
Akrotiri and Dhekelia Sovereign Base Areas shown in pink.
Akrotiri and Dhekelia Sovereign Base Areas shown in pink.
Capital Episkopi (administrative centre)
Official languages
Government Sovereign Base Areas
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Administrator Air Vice Marshal Graham Stacey
(Commander, British Forces Cyprus)
 -  Responsible Minister ( UK) David Lidington MP
British overseas territory
 -  Established 1960 
 -  Total 254 km2
98 sq mi 
 -  estimate
  • 7,000 Cypriots
  • 7,500 British military personnela
 -  Density [n/a]/km2 ( n/a)
[n/a]/sq mi
Currency Euro ( EUR)
Time zone EET ( UTC+2)
 -  Summer ( DST) EEST ( UTC+3)
Calling code +357
a. Including families.

The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (Greek: Περιοχές Κυρίαρχων Βάσεων Ακρωτηρίου και Δεκέλειας, Perioches Kyriarchon Vaseon Akrotiriou kai Dhekeleias Turkish: Akrotiri ve Dikelya İngiliz Üsleri) are two British-administered areas, constituting a British Overseas Territory, on the island of Cyprus administered as Sovereign Base Areas of the United Kingdom. The bases 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 bases are split into Akrotiri (Greek: Ακρωτήρι, IPA:  [akro̞ˈtiri]; Turkish: Ağrotur) which, along with Episkopi Garrison, comprises an area known as the Western Sovereign Base Area or WSBA) and Dhekelia (Greek: Δεκέλεια, IPA:  [ðe̞ˈke̞lia]; Turkish: Dikelya) which, along with Ayios Nikolaos, comprises the Eastern Sovereign Base Area or ESBA.


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. However, 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. 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) 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. Some Greek Cypriot refugees remain housed on land in the parts of Trachoni and Kolossi villages that fall within the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area.

Dispute with Cyprus

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. 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.

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. Today, 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.

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".

Potential troop withdrawal

In January 2010, a newspaper article appeared in the mainstream British press claiming that as a result of budgetary constraints arising from the late 2000s recession, the British Ministry of Defence drew up controversial 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.

Constitution and governance

A US Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter at RAF Akrotiri.

The SBAs were retained in 1960 as military bases under British sovereignty, not as ordinary colonial territories.

This is the basic philosophy of their administration as 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.

The bases 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.

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.


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.

The bases are administered by the Administrator of the Sovereign Base Areas, who is the Commander of British Forces Cyprus (from November 2010 Air Vice Marshal Graham Stacey). 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. No elections are held in the Bases, although British citizens are normally entitled to vote in United Kingdom elections (as British Forces or overseas electors).


Episkopi Bay is on the west coast of Akrotiri.
Map of Akrotiri (Western) SBA.
Map of Dhekelia (Eastern) SBA.

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, either by British or Cypriot citizens. The other 40% is owned by the Ministry of Defence, or is classed as Crown land. In addition to Akrotiri and Dhekelia themselves, the Treaty of Establishment also provides for the continued use by the British Government 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 SBA. 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.


When the bases were being established, the boundaries were drawn up to avoid centres of population. However, around 14,000 people live in the bases. Around 7,000 native Cypriots live in the bases, who either work in the bases themselves, or on farmland within the boundaries of the bases. The British military and their families make up the rest of the population.

There is no specific citizenship available for the bases, although some people may be able to claim British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC) status. Unlike all other British Overseas Territories, BOTCs connected solely with the Sovereign Base Areas do not have any entitlement to full British citizenship.

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 Southern Cyprus, despite not being part of the European Union. The Sovereign Base Areas are the only areas under British sovereignty to use the euro.

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