Cyprus agrees to base for Syria chemical inspections

NICOSIA (AFP) - Cyprus said that it has approved the establishment of a support base on the Mediterranean island for chemical weapons inspectors deployed in war-hit Syria.

"The Council of Ministers has ratified the agreement between the Republic of Cyprus and the UN-OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) for the establishment of a support base of the joint mission of UN-OPCW," said a government statement on Friday.

Cyprus said it would facilitate the "safe presence and conduct of the activities of the joint mission".

A support base has been created within the UN-controlled buffer zone at Nicosia's disused airport from where inspectors will travel to and from Syria, some 220 kilometres away.

"The decision by the United Nations for the establishment of a support base of the mission in Cyprus demonstrates the stabilising and upgraded role of Cyprus in the region," said the statement.

Earlier this month UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for the establishment of a "staging area and support base" for 100 staff in Cyprus.

In a letter addressed to the UN Security Council, Mr Ban also said Cyprus would be home to the fundraising wing of the chemical weapons operation.

Cyprus was used as a staging post for Iraqi weapons inspectors a decade ago.