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Cyprus

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 29 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has received on the UK's role in Cyprus. (167727)

The UK has a unique role in Cyprus, as both countries are EU, UN and Commonwealth members, and the UK is one of the three guarantor powers for Cyprus. The UK has a strong bilateral relationship with Cyprus, a key trading partner. We maintain a structured dialogue and co-operate on a wide range of issues.

The UK is fully supportive of the UN's efforts to promote the reunification of Cyprus and we have lent our full support to the 8 July agreement between the two leaders. The UK works with its EU and UN partners to achieve this goal. In north Cyprus, we have supported the EU's efforts to bring the Turkish Cypriot community closer to Europe, facilitating the reunification of Cyprus through economic development.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department has taken to encourage the reunification of Cyprus following the 2004 Annan plan. (167728)

In 2004, the UN plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem was approved by the Turkish Cypriots, but rejected by the Greek Cypriots. The UK continues to support a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, established on the basis of political equality. We have fully supported the UN's efforts to restart settlement negotiations between the two communities on this basis, and have lent our full support to the 8 July agreement between the two leaders.

We engage fully with Turkey, Greece, the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot leadership, encouraging them to play a full and positive part in the settlement process. During her last visit to the island, my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan), the UK's recently appointed Special Representative for Cyprus, urged both communities to show the flexibility and political courage required to bridge the gap between words and deeds.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his Department's policy is on trade with Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. (167730)

The EU made a commitment in April 2004, reiterated in January 2007, “to end the isolation of Turkish Cypriots and facilitate the reunification of Cyprus” with “particular emphasis on the economic integration of the island and on improving contact between the two communities and with the EU”. We fully support these objectives.

The EU wants direct trade with northern Cyprus and the Government have supported the attempts of successive EU presidencies to realise this goal. We believe that this would bring Turkish Cypriots closer to Europe, slow the economic integration of northern Cyprus with Turkey, promote economic integration within Cyprus and reduce economic disparities between the two communities, so facilitating a settlement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of Turkish troops situated in Cyprus; and if he will make a statement. (163217)

The Government estimate that there are between 20,000 and 30,000 Turkish troops in northern Cyprus. We believe that a reduction in the number of Turkish troops would help build trust on the island. A settlement would allow comprehensive demilitarisation of the island.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the (a) processes for and (b) impact of commercial development in the buffer zone in Cyprus; and if he will make a statement. (163219)

The monitoring and control of development in the buffer zone is a matter for the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, whose mandate we strongly support.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the North Cyprus Property Commission’s ability to (a) pay compensation for and (b) order restitution of Greek Cypriot property (i) promptly and (ii) in full. (163118)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has made no assessment of the ability of the Immovable Property Commission to fulfil its functions. This matter is properly before the European Court of Human Rights.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the extent of bicommunal activity in Cyprus sponsored or organised by (a) the UK, (b) the UN, (c) other countries, (d) the Republic of Cyprus, (e) Turkish Cypriots, (f) civil society in the Republic of Cyprus and (g) civil society in Northern Cyprus. (163218)

The UK supports a range of bicommunal activities. For example, we have provided financial support for the UN Commission on missing persons and have promoted bicommunal discussions highlighting the economic benefits of a solution. My right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan), the UK Special Representative to Cyprus, met bicommunal civil society groups in October, during her visit to the island.

The bulk of the UN work on bicommunal activities is organised by Action for Co-operation and Trust in Cyprus (ACT). The ACT was created in October 2005 and has a total budget of US$26.5 million. It is managed directly by the UN Development programme. More information about the work of ACT can be found at:

http://www.undp-act.org/MAIN/default.aspx.

Notwithstanding these efforts, the UN Security Council noted in its last resolution on the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus mandate that the search for peace in Cyprus would benefit from more bicommunal activity.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent progress there has been in cross-green line co-operation between police services of the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriots; and if he will make a statement. (163131)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not aware of any co-operation between the police services of the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriots.

The technical committees envisaged under the 8 July 2006 agreement would provide a forum for discussion of those issues, such as crime, that would benefit from enhanced bicommunal co-operation. We continue to urge the rapid implementation of the 8 July agreement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much of the EU's 259 million euros aid package to Turkish Cypriots (a) has been spent and (b) is contracted to be spent; what obstacles there are to the disbursement of the aid; and if he will make a statement. (163128)

The financial aid regulation is supporting practical projects designed to bring the Turkish Cypriot community closer to Europe. The European Commission's 2007 report on the Financial Aid Regulation, available at

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriScrv/site/en/com/2007/com2007_0536en01.pdf

provides a full account of implementation of the regulation. By October 2007, €61 million had been tendered for; total amount contracted reached €25 million; and a total of €8 million has now been spent.

Potential obstacles to effective implementation of the regulation cited in the report include: tight contracting deadlines, property issues, low absorption capacity, staffing of the programme team and lack of co-operation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. The Commission is working hard to overcome these obstacles, delivering projects that promote reunification by bringing the Turkish Cypriots closer to Europe.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely impact of the euro circulating in the Republic of Cyprus on (a) the Turkish Cypriot economy and (b) Turkish Cypriot people and their savings; and if he will make a statement. (163126)

The UK has made no such assessment. As the application of the EU's acquis communitaire is suspended in those areas of the Republic of Cyprus in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control, the euro will not be legal tender there. It will be the responsibility of the EU Commission to monitor the impact of the introduction of the euro. The UK continues to believe that bringing Turkish Cypriots closer to the EU will help to build economic links between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and will make a future settlement less costly to accommodate. The UK has promoted academic research and public debate on the role the single currency might play in promoting economic integration and reunification of the island.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the process of preparing conversion of the currency in the Republic of Cyprus to euros; and if he will make a statement. (163216)

The UK has not made any such assessment. Any such assessment would be the responsibility of the EU Commission. When the EU Council agreed on 10 July that Cyprus would be allowed to adopt the euro from 1 January 2008, it also encouraged Cyprus to continue with appropriate policies to ensure that it could make the most of the benefits of joining the euro, in particular on budgetary rigour, structural reform and maintaining the competitiveness of their economy.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made on opening new crossing points over the green line in Cyprus, apart from Ledra Street; and if he will make a statement. (163114)

We strongly support the efforts of the UN to broker an agreement between the parties, which would permit the opening of the symbolic Ledra Street crossing, or other green line crossing points. That would constitute a significant confidence building measure. This message was reinforced in the resolution on Cyprus adopted by the UN Security Council on 15 June. Although there have been positive gestures by both sides, key issues remaining including the demarcation of the buffer zone at Ledra Street. We continue to believe that further crossing points should be opened on the basis of arrangements used at existing crossing points, and call upon all involved to extend their full co-operation to the UN.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the (a) prospects for and (b) obstacles to opening a new green line crossing point at Ledra Street, Nicosia; and if he will make a statement. (163115)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of levels of cross-green line crime in Cyprus; and if he will make a statement. (163130)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has made no formal assessment of the level of cross-green line crime in Cyprus. However, we remain concerned that lack of co-operation between the two sides on criminal matters provides a hospitable environment for organised criminal groups. The technical committees envisaged under the 8 July 2006 agreement would provide a forum for discussion of this issue. We continue to urge the rapid implementation of the 8 July agreement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the UK stopped providing data to the Republic of Cyprus authorities about movements of people from the North of Cyprus through the Sovereign Base Areas checkpoints; for what reason this stopped; and if he will make a statement. (163214)

The Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) provide all information at their disposal on the movement of people to the Republic of Cyprus. There is practical co-operation between SBA and Republic of Cyprus officials on a daily basis, and regular meetings take place between the SBAs, Republic of Cyprus and the European Commission where information on movement of persons and goods is exchanged.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of Turkish Cypriots (a) resident in the south of Cyprus and (b) visiting the south on a daily basis for work; and if he will make a statement. (163215)

The Government have not estimated the number of Turkish Cypriots who reside and work in the Republic of Cyprus.

In the period 1 May 2006 to 31 April 2007, according to the EU Commission report on the Green Line Regulation, 1,348,215 Turkish Cypriots crossed from the northern part of Cyprus to the Government-controlled area. This was broken down as 812,756 in the first six months and 535,459 in the second.

We regret any reduction in contacts between the two communities. We believe that increased people-to- people contacts, and trade between the two communities and the rest of the EU, can make an important contribution to solving the Cyprus problem.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made with the missing persons initiative in Cyprus; and if he will make a statement. (163111)

We welcome the progress of the Committee on Missing Persons since it launched its project on the Exhumation, Identification and Return of Remains of Missing Persons in August 2006. The committee carries out important humanitarian work, identifying and returning the remains of those who lost their lives during this period. The remains of 28 missing persons were returned to their families in July this year. We hope that this process will promote reconciliation between the communities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Government will make available to the UN Missing Persons Committee in Cyprus the information that they hold on atrocities which result in the deaths of Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and foreign nationals between 1960 and 1974; and if he will make a statement. (163112)

Government records from this period deemed worthy of preservation are, with a few exceptions, housed at the National Archive where they are available to the public, free of charge. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently selects on average 40 per cent. of created files for preservation, of which less than 1 per cent. are closed or retained (unavailable to the public).

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the expected budget shortfall for the UN missing persons initiative in Cyprus is for (a) 2007-08 and (b) 2008-09; and if he will make a statement. (163123)

Any budget shortfall, as well as the budget for 2008-09, is a matter for the UN in the first instance. The UK has donated a total of £82,000 to the committee, including a contribution of £10,000 in the current financial year. By this and other means, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has supported and encouraged the efforts of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus and the UN Mission in Cyprus to promote outside donor support for the important work of the committee, as well as continuing support from the parties in Cyprus.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what financial assistance the UK is giving to the UN missing persons initiative in Cyprus in 2007-08; and if he will make a statement. (163124)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the British high commissioner for Cyprus last visited Rizokarpasso in northern Cyprus; what assessment he made of the (a) number, (b) scale and (c) reasons given for demolition of Greek Cypriot homes; what representations he made to the Turkish Cypriots; and if he will make a statement. (163110)

Our high commissioner in Nicosia last visited the Greek Cypriot community in Karpas on 22 June 2007 as part of a regular pattern of visits, which supplement the United Nations’ humanitarian and monitoring activity. The issue of the demolition of Greek Cypriot homes was specifically discussed during this visit and subsequently with the Turkish Cypriot leadership. Our high commission in Nicosia continues to urge the Turkish Cypriot leadership to respect the property rights of the enclaved Greek Cypriot communities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the statement by President Gul in Northern Cyprus that the island consists of two states, two peoples and two religions; what his policy on this matter is; and if he will make a statement. (163117)

Turkey has frequently expressed its support for a settlement in Cyprus on the basis of political equality and a bizonal, bicommunal federation, negotiated through the good offices of the UN Secretary-General. Our contacts with the Turkish Government, both before and after President Gul’s comments, suggest that it is still their objective.

The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus reached agreement on 8 July 2006 on steps designed to lead to a resumption of settlement negotiations. That agreement, which has the full support of the UK, the UN Security Council and the international community, has yet to be implemented. During his recent meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister underlined the importance of all parties seizing the opportunity for progress next year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether (a) Famagusta and (b) Kyrenia meet the requirements of the 2004 International Ship and Port Facility Security Code; and if he will make a statement. (163213)

The Government have not formally assessed whether the ports of Famagusta and Kyrenia meet the requirements of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. The port facilities do not appear on the International Maritime Organisation’s list of facilities with approved security plans.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact on EU trade and shipping of the Turkish embargo on Cypriot and Cyprus- associated shipping; and if he will make a statement. (163121)

The European Commission is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the acquis by Turkey and for providing evidence-based impact assessments on the accession process. The UK has made no detailed assessment of the impact on EU trade and shipping of the Turkish embargo on Cypriot and Cyprus associated shipping. However, the opening of Turkish ports to Cypriot shipping would clearly have important economic benefits for the region as a whole. The interdependence that accompanies trade, both on the island and between Cyprus and Turkey, has an important role to play in reunifying the island.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to Turkey on its embargo on Cypriot shipping; and if he will make a statement. (163122)

The Government regularly raise with Turkey the importance of fulfilling its obligations to the EU. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did so when he met the Turkish Prime Minister on 23 October. The European Commission’s annual progress report on Turkey, published on 6 November—http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2007/nov/turkey_progress_reportts_en.pdf)—evaluates Turkey’s implementation of its obligations, including those under the Ankara Agreement Protocol.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the (a) effectiveness of the bicommunal school in Limassol and (b) proposals for Turkish Cypriots resident in Limassol of a separate school for Turkish Cypriot children; and if he will make a statement. (163134)

The UK is aware that ideas for a separate school for Turkish Cypriot children in Limassol have been discussed by the two communities. This is a long-standing issue. We hope that these discussions can produce agreement on how Turkish Cypriot children in Limassol can best be educated.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to promote progress on the July 2006 Gambari Agreement in Cyprus; what assessment he has made of the obstacles to such progress; and if he will make a statement. (163133)

The UK fully supports the 8 July 2006 process. Time is not on the side of a settlement. Following his meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan in October, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear the importance of seizing the election free window of opportunity for progress towards a settlement in 2008. In addition, we continue to urge both sides to show the flexibility necessary for the technical committees and working groups envisaged under this agreement to begin work, and to prepare the ground for fully fledged settlement negotiations as soon as possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the rate of building on Greek Cypriot-owned land in northern Cyprus (a) before and (b) after the rejection of the Annan plan; and if he will make a statement. (163129)

The Government have not estimated the number of properties that have been built or which are under construction in northern Cyprus. However, property development in northern Cyprus has clearly accelerated since the rejection of the Annan plan, which has resulted in the building of large numbers of new properties. The Government are concerned at the scale of such construction on Greek Cypriot-owned land in northern Cyprus. Our high commission in Nicosia regularly raises the issue of property development with the Turkish Cypriot leadership. We believe that the difficult and complex issue of property is only likely to be fully resolved in the context of a comprehensive settlement, and we urge both sides to engage constructively with the United Nations to enable settlement negotiations to start as soon as possible.

In our contacts with the Turkish Cypriot leadership, we recognise the Turkish Cypriots' need for economic development in support of reunification. But we urge them to ensure that any property development which does take place does so in a manner that is environmentally sustainable and does not complicate an eventual solution.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the ability of the Turkish Cypriot economy to comply with standards required by the EU acquis communautaire; and if he will make a statement. (163127)

The Government have not made such an assessment. The history of the EU demonstrates the power of trade to promote economic prosperity and political reconciliation. The preliminary finding of the World Bank report from 2006 on the economy in northern Cyprus was that the external constraints on access to EU markets for the Turkish Cypriot community were one of the two biggest constraints to economic development in northern Cyprus. I endorse the conclusion that the long-term welfare of all Cypriots is in jeopardy if steps are not taken to ensure the convergence of living standards on the island. That is why we remain committed to supporting the Turkish Cypriots and the EU Commission in economic and regulatory reform, particularly through the aid regulation, and to supporting the EU presidency in its efforts to find a way for the Turkish Cypriots to trade directly with the EU.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the rate of migration from Turkey to the north of Cyprus (a) before and (b) after the rejection of the Annan plan; and if he will make a statement. (163132)

The Government do not have specific data concerning the rate of migration from Turkey to the north of Cyprus before and after the rejection of the Annan plan.

However, a Turkish Cypriot census in April 2006 indicated that roughly 40 per cent. of the population of northern Cyprus is of Turkish or Turkish-mixed origin. This figure includes temporary workers and students but excludes soldiers and their families.