Cyprus, the closest European Union member state to Syria, has offered its airbase to France to pound Islamic State (Isis) targets in the region. The Mediterranean island is just 105km from Syria and officials said they will be happy to offer assistance to French forces.
The former British colony, already used by western powers for humanitarian missions, added that French authorities have not yet reached out to them to use the facilities. "I want to make clear that we will wait for the French authorities, if they want to ask [for] something from us, particularly our location and our facilities we would be very glad to provide them with this solidarity and assistance," Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told reporters.
Kasoulides was addressing a joint press conference along with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, when he made the offer. It was a rare step from Nicosia given that France had not yet approached Cyprus for help.
France already has about 12 fighter jets as part of the anti-IS operations flying from the UAE and Jordan. Its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle, has also left for eastern Mediterranean to join the counter-terror efforts.
When the Cypriot minister was asked whether the country would back aerial missions from its two military bases -- both operated by Britain -- Kasoulides said: "We have not been asked about launching but as you know, we have given all our support to the British bases launched from Cyprus."
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades had earlier expressed solidarity with France over the Paris terror attacks, which claimed 129 lives and left hundreds injured. After signing the book of condolences at the French ambassador's residence in the island nation, Anastasiades wrote: "It is with great emotion and sadness that I have learnt the news of the heinous terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris. In these difficult circumstances, our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the French people as a whole."
Meanwhile, in the wake of the 13 November attacks masterminded by IS, several European cities have been put on high alert. Many European nations have also stepped up security following tip-offs about potential attacks.