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Volume 536: debated on Tuesday 29 November 2011

11. What assessment he has made of the UK’s relationship with Turkey; and if he will make a statement. (83293)

Turkey is a key partner in trade and investment, and in building international security. Last week’s state visit by President Gul demonstrated the vitality of our bilateral relationship.

Economic growth in Turkey was 9% last year and its trade in goods with the UK is expected to reach £9 billion this year. Should not those be clinching factors in ensuring that we have a positive relationship with Turkey, and that the EU does not foolishly turn its back on that country?

We strongly support Turkey’s ambitions for EU accession. We think that Turkish membership of the EU would be extremely good news for the single market and for British and wider European business opportunities.

When the Turkish Foreign Minister met the Foreign Affairs Committee last week, he brought a representative all-party group of Members of Parliament with him on the delegation. Is that not a good idea? Why does the Foreign Secretary not take a cross-party group of Members of Parliament with him to the Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan, particularly with regard to the issue of women in Afghanistan?

I think that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary can speak with confidence not just on behalf of the Government but for the strong cross-party consensus in this House for a peaceful, constructive and democratic future for Afghanistan.

Does the Minister agree that a key aspect of the UK’s relationship with Turkey is its responsibility to Cyprus as a guarantor power? Will the Government ensure that the opportunities arising from the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves on the coast of Cyprus are fully respected, and that the resulting benefits for all Cypriots are fully preserved?

Like all countries that are signed up to the UN convention on the law of the sea, we support the right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit its exclusive economic zone. We continually urge the leaders of both communities in Cyprus to work actively towards a settlement.

Further to the Minister’s previous comment, Cyprus would have been high on the Government’s agenda in their discussions with President Gul last week. We have to break the current deadlock in the talks. What more can the Government do to foster that aim? Will it include inviting the President of Cyprus to London?

It has not yet been possible to arrive at a date for President Christofias to visit London, but there is no objection in principle to that happening. Our role is to encourage and support the leaders of both communities to work with the Secretary-General of the United Nations to reach a comprehensive settlement. That is in the interests of every community in Cyprus.