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Cyprus (British Property)

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 29 January 1975

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2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has now made to the Governments of Cyprus and Turkey about compensation for British nationals who lost property and personal possessions in the Cyprus disturbances of 1974.

I told my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 19th December—[Vol. 883, c. 575–6]—that we have been considering an approach to the Governments of Turkey and Cyprus on this problem. After careful assessment of the responsibility for the various categories of loss and damage reported, my right hon. Friend has authorised Her Majesty's Am- bassador in Ankara to make representations to the Turkish Government. An approach to the Government of Cyprus is still under consideration.

Is the Minister satisfied that the Government are doing all they can to help these people, most of whom are not rich and many of whom are now destitute?

I fear that I must accept the definition given by the hon. Gentleman of the condition of some of these people, but I hope he will accept my assurance that the Government are doing all they can, and are doing it repeatedly, to establish their claims and the responsibilities of the Government in question. This is a matter of some difficulty, although I promise that we shall continue to pursue it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that hundreds of thousands of Cypriots also lost property and possessions in 1974? Does he agree that the recent action of the Government in acquiescing in the transfer of 10,000 Turkish Cypriot refugees to Turkey who were then sent to the north of Cyprus is regarded as a betrayal by many of the Greek community in Greece and Cyprus and also those in this country, many of whom are my constituents? Does he not agree that it is time for the Government's policy to be made absolutely clear to avoid the charge of betrayal and of a complete reversal of policy?

I agree that there are many thousands of Greek Cypriots living in desperate conditions for whom something should be done—essentially by the Government of Turkey and the military authority in the north of the island of Cyprus. As for the Turkish refugees who were lately in the western sovereign base, we always knew that if we were to allow them to leave that base by air charges of duplicity would be made against us. We always knew that it would produce difficulties and embarrassments for Her Majesty's Government, but we took the view in January that their conditions, were they to remain there under canvas for the winter, would become so desperate that, out of compassion, it was our duty to allow them to leave by air. I am sure we were right to do so.

One accepts that the Government's judgment in that regard may be correct, but can the Minister say what representations were made to the Turkish Government and what assurances were sought from them in consideration of the concession we made?

My right hon. Friend rightly refused to bargain over this matter, saying that the lives and the health of several thousand Turkish Cypriots were not suitable subjects for making a deal with the Government of Turkey or anyone else. At the same time, however, he told the Turkish Government how strongly he and, he believed, this House would feel about their obligations to do something on behalf of the Greek Cypriot refugees. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will know that 1,000 Greek Cypriot refugees have already returned to their homes, but we continue to press as strongly as we can for the sort of humanity which we have shown to be shown by other nations.

May I give notice, Mr. Speaker, that I shall wish to raise a point of order on Question No. 35 at the end of Question Time, about the way in which the Foreign Office has avoided making a statement about this situation?

Further to the questions already answered, may I ask what attitude the Foreign Secretary will take when or if he discusses this matter with Dr. Kissinger tomorrow? What will be the Government's position? Why have the Government now decided on non-intervention in the Clerides-Denktash talks, and what is the position of this Government as guarantor of the original treaty? I understand that the discussions next week will now be about the geographical allocation of territories in Cyprus, and many people are hoping that this Government will do something to avoid de facto recognition of the partition line, which is on the agenda for the talks.

I am sorry if my hon. Friend thinks that our answers have been less than frank. With great respect, I doubt whether that is how they will seem when read in Hansard tomorrow.

As far as the Clerides-Denktash talks are concerned, it has always been the policy of Her Majesty's Government that these talks are the talks which are going on and which it is possible to see continued and, therefore, are the best prospects for making progress in the island. It is not known—but it ought to be—that the beginnings of these talks came about when the Secretary-General of the United Nations and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State had a conversation in August about how progress might be made towards a settlement in the island. Because of the very considerable progress that has been made on some issues and the willingness to expand the talks into political matters, Her Majesty's Government continue to believe that they are a prospect for progress. If my hon. Friend has any other material or practical suggestions about how progress should be made, I shall be happy to hear about them.