Signposting Futures: UK, Cyprus and Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs)



This week, the RUSI Journal, published a new piece by two Royal Holloway colleagues (Klaus Dodds and Rikke Jensen) and a University of Cyprus colleague, Costas Constantinou. Our collaboration followed a field trip by KD and RJ to Cyprus in June 2015 where we visited the two UK Sovereign Base Areas, Akrotiri and Dhekelia. The SBAs are administered by a local administrative body and managed by the MOD.

As we detail in our paper ‘Signposts: Cyprus, the UK and the Future of the SBAs’, the continued presence of the SBAs (itself a legacy of the 1960 independence talks involving the UK and Greece and Turkey) remains highly topical indeed controversial. Recently, we witnessed several high-profile stories featuring the fate of both longer-term and recent refugees to the SBAs.



We show how a range of issues such as refugees, maritime jurisdiction, environmental and wildlife management and proximity to conflicts such as Syria raising troubling issues. While the political and legal status quo could well prevail in the coming months and years, depending on how reunification talks and negotiations proceed, the UK could find itself under new pressure to either reduce the size and scope of the SBAs or potentially pull out of these territories altogether.

As we conclude in our paper:

“Ultimately, in the event of reunification, there would be direct pressure to revise the terms of the operation of or completely phase out the SBAs because reunification would most likely alter the UK’s position as a guarantor power. The RoC, at present, is in no position to demand such operational revision or removal but a unified Cyprus might decide – immediately upon coming into existence or at some point in the future– thata different guarantee system is required, one free from the foreign privileges and interventions of the post- independence era. Better yet, it might decide to embrace a truly post-colonial future where overseas military bases and guarantor powers are a thing of the past. However, it might still decide, in the context of a common European security policy and regional instabilities involving countries such as Syria and Lebanon, as well as non-state actors such as Daesh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham), that a different kind of guarantee is required – perhaps a more strategic partnership with more powerful allies, such as the UK and the EU – against a different kind of danger. All things considered, it appears that in the longer term the continuation of the status quo with regard to the SBAs is not sustainable; it is also the least likely scenario, especially if a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue is finally achieved”. 

The paper is available open access from the RUSI Journal website.


Credits: The map was kindly drawn by Jenny Kynaston (Department of Geography, Royal Holloway) and the photo was taken by the authors in the Dhekelia SBA.


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