Akrotiri and Dhekelia

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Akrotiri and Dhekelia

(British overseas territory)

20061019 Episkopi Bay.jpg
Episkopi Bay, Western SBA
Akrotiri and Dhekelia
Flag of Akrotiri and Dhekelia Arms of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
Area: 98 square miles
Population: 7,000 Cypriots,
7,500 military personnel & families
Capital: Episkopi Cantonment
Time zone: GMT +2
Dialling code: 00357

The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are collectively a British overseas territory consisting of two Sovereign Base Areas on the south coast of the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

Akrotiri and Dhekelia are administered as Sovereign Base Areas of the United Kingdom. The bases were retained by the British following the granting of independence and the eventual transition of Cyprus from a crown colony to an independent sovereign state. The United Kingdom demanded and succeeded in continuing to occupy a portion of Cyprus in the form of military bases because of the strategic location of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea in pursuit of British interests.

The bases are split into Akrotiri (Greek: Ακρωτήρι, along with Episkopi Garrison, is part of an area known as the Western Sovereign Base Area or WSBA) and Dhekelia (Greek: Δεκέλεια) along with Ayios Nikolaos, is part of the Eastern Sovereign Base Area or ESBA).


Map of Akrotiri (Western) SBA
Map of Dhekelia (Eastern) SBA

Akrotiri and Dhekelia cover 3% of the land area of Cyprus, a total of 98 square miles of which 47 square miles is the Western Sovereign Base Area (Akrotiri) and 51 square miles is the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (Dhekelia). 60% of the land is privately owned, either by British or Cypriot citizens and 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, which are nevertheless outside the Territory.

Akrotiri is located in the south of the island, near the city of Limassol. 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 unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Ayia Napa, a coastal resort town within the Republic of Cyprus 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 citizenship. Unlike all other British territories, BOT citizens 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 issued a non-binding letter of intent not to form colonies in the Areas or use them 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.

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.[1]


Akrotiri Airhead

The island of Cyprus was ruled by the United Kingdom from 1878, and it became a Crown colony in 1918. After a bitter guerrilla war, Cyprus was granted independence in 1960, but by the Treaty of Establishment the two Sovereign Base Areas were excluded from the Republic of Cyprus and retained by the United Kingdom; Britain needed the military bases in Cyprus, including RAF Akrotiri because of the strategic location of Cyprus at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, close to the Suez Canal and the Middle East. The bases give the RAF a staging post for military aircraft; and bases 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 base, and were given humanitarian aid. The Turkish advance halted when it reached the edge of the base area, as to avoid military conflict with the United Kingdom.

The Cypriots have often sought the cession of the Sovereign Base Areas to the Republic of Cyprus, which the British government has shown no intention of entertaining, although it did offer to surrender 45 square miles of farmland as part of the rejected Annan Plan for Cyprus.

Constitution and governance

The Sovereign Base Areas 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 stated 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.[2]

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."[3]

The bases are administered by the Administrator of the Sovereign Base Areas, who is the Commander of British Forces Cyprus. The Administrator is officially appointed by The Queen, 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).


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, despite not being part of the European Union. The Sovereign Base Areas are the only areas under British sovereignty to use the euro.[4]


A monthly magazine 'CFL - Cyprus Forces Life' is published in both SBAs and in shops. British Forces Broadcasting Service 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.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Akrotiri and Dhekelia)


  1. 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.
  2. "SBA website". Sba.mod.uk. http://www.sba.mod.uk/web_pages/appdx-o.htm. Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  3. "SBA website". Sba.mod.uk. http://www.sba.mod.uk/web_pages/admin_background.htm. Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  4. Theodoulou, Michael. (27 December 2007). Euro reaches field that is for ever England, Times Online. Retrieved 4 January 2008.