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US granted use of Cyprus' airspace
2003-03-20 10:14:58

Nicosia, Mar 20 (CNA) ? The Council of Ministers approved here Thursday a request by the US to allow American aircraft to use Cyprus' national airspace, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said.

The Cabinet decided the facilities would be granted on condition that civil aviation is not jeopardised. The US Embassy in Nicosia welcomed the decision.

The Council of Ministers further said it would grant facilities in humanitarian emergencies, and search and rescue in areas under the responsibility of the Republic.|

The Cabinet, chaired by Acting President of the Republic, House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias, examined the situation created with the start of the war in Iraq.

Announcing the decision, Chrysostomides expressed the Council of Ministers' ''deep sadness and concern'' regarding the war and reiterated that Cyprus is ''a peace-loving country and does not wish to be used as a launch pad for war operations''.

The Cabinet ''respects international law principles and the UN Charter and considers the Security Council, which is the most appropriate body to secure world peace, in its majority believes the war could have been avoided and a solution reached through peaceful means''.

It also noted ''the European Union's stance and the positions of the European Council, and expressed the view that establishing a common foreign policy is necessary for the EU's unity''.

Chrysostomides said the Cabinet examined ''the US request, in view of the war in Iraq, bearing in mind today's events and the unfolding political situation''.

The Cabinet, he added, took into consideration earlier agreements between the two countries, under which Cyprus had granted facilities to the US.

''Today's circumstances alter the situation in relation to the previous arrangements'', Chrysostomides said.

''The Cabinet, after a discussion, approves granting facilities to the US to pass through the Republic of Cyprus's airspace. In addition, based on the wider international obligations, it will grant facilities in cases of humanitarian emergencies, search and rescue in areas under the responsibility of the Republic'', he added.

The Government Spokesman said the Cabinet decided the facilities would be granted on condition that civil aviation is not jeopardised.

''Facilities to allow aircraft to use Cyprus' airspace are being granted on the condition that civil airspace is not endangered'', Chrysostomides added.

''Based on the wider international obligations, it will also grant facilities in humanitarian emergencies, search and rescue in areas under the responsibility of the Republic'', the Spokesman added

He repeated that Cyprus ''is far from war operations, is safe and there is no reason for concern'', adding that the government ''takes all necessary measures to handle any possible repercussions from the war in Iraq''.

Chrysostomides told reporters that after negotiations, the US requests were restricted in the use of the Republic's airspace, that is passing of American aircraft from the Cyprus' airspace.

Asked what would happen in the event that US warplanes needed to refuel in Cyprus or any ship to dock at its ports, the Spokesman said ''this was not raised in the US request'', adding that if it is, it will be examined by the Cabinet.

Regarding previous agreements with the US, Chrysostomides said they dealt with combating terrorism.

''Today's conditions are different and there is no direct relation of the two situations'', he added.

The US Embassy, through its spokesman, said it ''welcomes the Council of Ministers' decision to grant facilities for the use of the Republic of Cyprus' airspace''.

CNA/KN/MK/EC/RG/2003
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY

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