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Overseas Property

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 6 December 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what risk assessment his Department has undertaken in relation to the acquisition of properties by UK citizens in (a) Northern Cyprus and (b) illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. (168618)

Our high commission in Nicosia recognises that there is a risk in relation to the acquisition of properties by UK nationals in the north of Cyprus. This is reflected in the travel advice for Cyprus given on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website and the answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” that are sent to inquirers on request. This advice is reproduced as follows:

Property issues are closely linked to the political situation. There are a number of potential practical, financial and legal implications, particularly for those considering buying property in the north. These relate to the non-recognition of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, the suspension of EU law in northern Cyprus, the possible consequences for property of a future settlement, and the many thousands of claims to ownership from people displaced in 1974. There is also a risk that, as a result of the disputed ownership of many of the properties, purchasers could face legal proceedings in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as attempts to enforce judgments from these courts elsewhere in the EU, including the UK.

The Government have undertaken no risk assessment in relation to the acquisition of properties by UK citizens in illegal Israeli settlements.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions UK citizens have sought advice from his Department in relation to property disputes in (a) Northern Cyprus and (b) illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the last five years. (168619)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has not kept a record of the number of occasions UK citizens have sought advice in relation to property disputes in northern Cyprus over the last five years. The FCO does, however, receive a significant number of inquiries from members of the public relating to property in northern Cyprus. The FCO is not able to directly intervene in private property disputes. However, we continue to warn potential purchasers of the risks of purchasing property in northern Cyprus, both through our online travel advice—available at www.fco.gov.uk—and in response to inquiries from the public. We also advise UK citizens in the travel advice section of our website to seek qualified legal advice from a source that is independent of the seller before purchasing property in Cyprus. Similarly, should a dispute occur as a result of a property transaction, we advise members of the public to seek qualified independent legal advice on their rights and methods of redress.

We are not aware of any occasions in which UK citizens have sought advice from the FCO on property disputes in Israeli settlements in the last five years. The Government do not advise or encourage individuals, companies or organisations to market or sell property in the settlements.

We regard all settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as illegal under international law and have repeatedly raised our concerns about settlement activity with the Israeli Government.