They comprise the only British overseas territory effectively run through the defence ministry, Thomson, 55, told AFP, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II hanging in his office.
In this part of Cyprus, a former British colony, Britain is still in charge and Cypriots appear before the court.

Some on the island liken the arrangement to continued colonisation. Scholars called it “undeniably anachronistic” and “highly unusual”.

His three “guiding principles” are to operate the bases, cooperate with Cyprus and to “look after the interests of the people who live there”.

Thomson oversees SBA police, courts, customs and immigration, and a prison — all run separately from the Republic of Cyprus — though laws in the base areas reflect Cypriot regulations.

SBA officers, most of whom are Cypriots, have jurisdiction over 12,000 
The base has supported operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and helped reinforce NATO’s eastern flank after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Cyprus became independent from Britain in 1960 after a bloody guerrilla campaign.

Under that treaty, which Greece and Turkey also signed, Britain retained control over two military zones in the east and south of the island, Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) where thousands of Cypriots live -– outnumbering British troops.

Since no physical borders separate SBA land from the Republic of Cyprus, it’s difficult to tell where their jurisdiction begins -– except for the tell-tale cricket pitch lying in a spectacular valley.

Beaches, ancient ruins and bird-rich wetlands are attractions for tourists, who are also subject to SBA law.

Nicos Costa, one person before the court, was charged with driving while disqualified. It “is a serious offence”, the judge said, as Costa faced a possible two-year jail term.

The UK is absolutely invested in trying to find a solution to the Cyprus problem,” he stressed.

Apart from warplanes and what Thomson called a “significant” intelligence capability, the bases host two infantry battalions, one on standby for rapid deployment. They help make Britain, its NATO allies, and the region safer, he said.

“It gives us global presence,” he said, offering “strategic advantage” to the West, with no disadvantages for Cypriots.

Ypsonas Mayor Pantelis Georgiou can see things from both sides. About 25 percent of his community, and roughly 1,000 residents, lies inside the base.

Despite questions about the arrangement “whether we like it or not it’s within” the 1960 agreement, Georgiou said.

© 2022 AFP

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