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Volume 400: debated on Tuesday 25 February 2003

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The Government's aim remains a comprehensive settlement in time for a reunited Cyprus to accede to the European Union on 16 April. For this to happen, the UN has set 28 February as the deadline for a decision on the Secretary-General's proposals. On Sunday 23 February Kofi Annan put forward ideas to the two sides on how he might revise his 10 December proposals, and is consulting the governments in Ankara and Athens before his historic visit to Nicosia tomorrow. President-elect, Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, has made clear that the change of government underway in Cyprus will not impede the UN timetable. The UK has supported the UN throughout this process, and has welcomed the balanced and comprehensive settlement proposals tabled by the Secretary-General. We urge both sides now to secure a settlement.During the intensive negotiations which followed the Copenhagen European Council, it became clear that the issue of territorial readjustment was a key one, needing to be resolved if there was to be a settlement. In particular, it became clear that both sides attached great importance to adjustments which represented a relatively small percentage of the area of Cyprus. The Government therefore gave urgent consideration to whether it could in some way help to bridge the remaining gap. A decision was reached to inform the UN Secretary-General that Britain would be prepared to cede part of the UK's Sovereign Base Areas and this offer has now been included in the UN Secretary-General's ideas of 23 February.The offer consists of 45 square miles just under half of the total area of the SBAs. This makes up 1.2 per cent. of the area of the new state of affairs in Cyprus. The areas involved would bring a number of Cypriots living near Limassol, and in the Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area, within the administration of their respective constituent state. It will also open up areas of coastline for possible development. The areas involved do not contain military infrastructure, and this offer will not have any adverse impact on the functioning of the SBAs. The offer would only become valid if there were agreement by both sides to the UN's proposals. And, of course, legislation would be introduced to bring the transfer of territory into operation. In the event that either side in Cyprus rejects the proposals, or the proposals are rejected in a referendum by either side, the offer, along with the rest of the UN proposals, will become null and void.We urge both sides not to let this historic opportunity to heal the division of Cyprus slip away; and to go the last mile to conclude negotiations and secure the settlement.