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Volume 621: debated on Tuesday 21 February 2017

The Foreign Secretary and I took part in the Geneva conference on the Cyprus settlement on 12 January. We welcome the Cypriot leaders’ commitment to resuming political level talks next month. We are keen to maintain momentum and stand ready to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.

Will my right hon. Friend agree that third-country guarantees should have no place in a new settlement for Cyprus, because Cypriots should be able to determine their own future without the threat of external military intervention?

It is up to the two sides to decide what future security arrangements they want for a united Cyprus that will enable both communities to feel secure. As a guarantor power, the UK is playing a supportive role and is open to any arrangement that is acceptable to the two communities.

I thank the Minister for that reply. He will know that Northern Ireland has had a partnership Government who have moved forward, bringing communities together. What has been done to offer advice from Northern Ireland to bring forward a political process that works, especially in relation to gas and oil exploitation, which could benefit all of Cyprus?

I think the example of Northern Ireland is an example to the whole world, and it has been of benefit in the likes of Nepal and Colombia. The issue of Cyprus is slightly different, but I hope that the lessons from Northern Ireland can be taken into account and that they can help inform the progress we would like to see in Cyprus.

Does the Minister agree with the view of the all-party parliamentary group, which visited Cyprus last week, that the best hope for a solution is the dedication and courage of both Cypriot leaders, freely negotiating, and a realisation in the communities that the status quo of a divided Cyprus is untenable? Does he agree that we need to ensure that Turkey gets that when it comes to security and guarantees?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I think we all applaud the good faith and dedication of the two leaders, who are working tirelessly towards a solution. There are other ingredients that are necessary, such as the co-operation of the two main countries next door, Greece and Turkey, and—this is very important—successful referendums in each community.

The last time negotiations in Cyprus seemed close to a deal, the effort collapsed when hackers broke into the UN’s computer systems and the documents were leaked to a pro-Russian Cypriot newspaper. The inflamed communal tensions that followed had a major role in scuppering the chance of a deal. What assurance can the Minister give that lessons have been learned from that experience and that proper safeguards are now in place to protect the negotiations from any undue influence from outside?

We have a very close association with the UN special representative, Mr Espen Eide. I am confident that he will have thought of this possible intrusion into the successful negotiations, and I hope that those safeguards are properly in place.