NICOSIA, April 13 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus said on Friday that it took action to reserve sections of air space around a British air base on the south shores of the Cyprus island which will be possibly used in any potential military action against Syria for the alleged use of toxic gas against civilians.
Head of Nicosia Air Control Center Haris Antoniades said his department issued two notices (notams) creating an air space buffer south of the British Akrotiri air base, which serves as the base of 14 fighter-bombers and a refueling aircraft.
He said the notices were issued at the request of the administration of the British Sovereign Bases in Cyprus and will be in force until May 12.
Antoniades also said that additional aviation instructions were issued aimed at allaying concerns by users of the Cypriot Flight Information Region (FIR) caused by reports in the British press about the possible use of the Akrotiri air base for potential military action against Syria.
Eurocontrol which serves as the European air safety agency, has advised airlines to be prepared for changes in the existing flight paths within the Cypriot FIR covering almost all of the eastern Mediterranean
Antoniades refrained from giving details of the notices but went to great lengths to counter reaction to the reservation of air space to be used by planes flying in and out of the Akrotiri air base.
"The areas reserved are not new. They have been reserved several times in the past and the only new element is that a fresh request has been made by the British Base authorities," Antoniades said.
Cyprus is sensitive to reports of possibly being at the center of a conflict that would mar its image as an oasis of tranquility in an otherwise volatile and unstable region.
Such a possibility could harm its blossoming tourist industry as the new tourist season has just begun.
Most opposition parties led by left-wing AKEL party have criticized the government for satisfying the British request for air space reservation.
Government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said air traffic within Cyprus's FIR has not been disturbed in any way up to now.
He also said that precautionary measures are being taken for the safe continuation of flights within the Cypriot FIR.
Britain retained two areas on the south shores of Cyprus to serve as home for a land army regiment and as an air base.
Most important of the two is the air base at Akrotiri, on the fringes of the port city of Limassol, which is considered by military analysts as one of the most important military facilities serving NATO.
Beyond hosting six Tornados and eight Typhoon fighter-bombers which are being used for strikes against the Islamic State, it also serves as an important center for the collection of military intelligence.
Analysts say that electronic intelligence installations at Akrotiri are possibly the most important hub in a NATO radar system that extends worldwide.