Qatari warplanes refuel in Cyprus
TWO QATARI fighter jets and a cargo aircraft, part of military operations to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, yesterday made an unscheduled refueling stop in Cyprus.
The three aircraft – two Mirage jets and a C-17 – landed at Larnaca airport shortly before 11am.
Cypriot authorities initially refused the aircrafts’ request to land, but subsequently granted permission after the pilots declared a fuel emergency, government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said.
As such, Civil Aviation had to implement international regulations and allow the planes to touch down, he added.
The aircraft were en route – it is believed – to a US military base on the Greek island of Crete.
The two Mirage fighters were outfitted with external fuel tanks and did not pack any missiles, a source at Larnaca airport, who requested anonymity, told the Mail.
The C-17 is a long-haul aircraft that can carry large equipment, supplies and troops directly to small airfields.
Stratfor intelligence periodical reported on Monday that Greece was yesterday expecting six Qatari fighter jets and a cargo plane to land at Crete’s Souda base.
Officials here would not comment on the destination or precise purpose of the Qatari aircraft. Local reports said the pilots did not submit flight plans to Cypriot authorities after landing; this could not be independently confirmed.
Citing Civil Aviation sources, the Associated Press reported that high winds contributed to the aircraft running low on fuel, forcing them to deviate from their initial flight path and to request to land here.
Head of Civil Aviation Leonidas Leonidou said the three aircraft executed a “technical landing” at Larnaca airport after securing diplomatic clearance as non-civilian aircraft.
Their origin was Qatar, he said. Civil Aviation consulted with the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Transport, which gave the green light for the aircraft to land.
Under police escort, the aircraft then taxied to the section of the runway at the old Larnaca airport.
The government has said it does not condone any military action in Libya and is not taking part. President Christofias has also expressed disapproval over the British government’s use of its base for military action, but conceded that Britain does not need permission from Cyprus.
RAF Akrotiri, one of two British military bases on the island’s southern coast, is hosting VC-10, RAF E3D and Sentinel surveillance aircraft which also provide refueling capability to help enforce the UN-sanctioned no-fly zone.
Asked whether the aircraft had contacted the British bases while in Cypriot airspace, Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) spokesman Stuart Bardsley said it was their policy to not comment on other nations’ operations.
But he added: “To my knowledge there was no communication with the [Qatari] aircraft.”
SBA command said on Monday their military airport in Limassol was not being used to launch offensive strikes on Libya, nor was it hosting “air assets” from any other nation for the operation.
So far Qatar is the only Arab state to agree to participate in military operations in Libya, although the Arab League has backed the UN-mandated no-fly zone to stop Muammar Gaddafi’s forces harming civilians in a conflict with an insurgency.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani on Sunday said the aim was to “stop the bloodbath” and it was necessary for Arab states to take part.
Cyprus and Qatar have been negotiating on a multimillion euro deal to build a luxury retail and leisure complex in Nicosia. But Cyprus has said it wants to stay out of the war in Libya because of its relations with other Arab nations in the region.
在三架飞机 - 两个幻影战斗机和C - 17 - 拉纳卡机场降落在前不久上午11点。
途中的飞机 - 据信 - 到美国在希腊克里特岛的军事基地。
这架C - 17是长途飞机，可以携带大型设备，物资和部队直接向小型机场。
英国皇家空军的阿克罗蒂里，英国两个岛屿的南部海岸的军事基地之一，是主办的VC - 10，英国皇家空军E3D及定点监察飞机提供加油能力，帮助执行联合国认可的禁飞区。