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Volume 660: debated on Tuesday 14 May 2019

I had a productive meeting with the United Nations Cyprus consultant Jane Holl Lute on 8 January this year, and my officials are in regular contact with her. I welcome the meeting of the two Cypriot leaders on 26 February, and we are supporting those efforts. In March, the Prime Minister met the Cypriot President, and the Foreign Secretary met Cypriot Foreign Minister Christodoulides to discuss how the UK can further support any future settlement.

Will the Minister join me in condemning the decision of the Turkish Government to begin drilling for oil and gas in the territorial waters of Cyprus, which not only jeopardises the chances of a successful resumption of the peace talks but risks a return to open conflict? Will he call on Turkey to immediately withdraw its drill ships from Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone?

Yesterday, I met the Turkish ambassador and had very constructive discussions with him. The position of the UK is that, in line with the UN convention on the law of the sea, exploratory drilling should not proceed in any area where sovereignty is under dispute.

Does the Minister agree that it will be impossible for talks between the two sides to restart with a view to getting reconciliation and a settlement while the Turkish incursion into Cyprus’s EEZ continues?

We would obviously like to see the de-escalation of any tensions and constructive talks to resume. We are doing our utmost as a guarantor power to play our role in that, and I hope that all the participants can get together and talk seriously once again about how some kind of settlement can be reached.

Did the Minister have any discussions with the Turkish ambassador about the re-run of the elections in Istanbul? Is there a possibility that we may be sending election observers?

Yes, I did have such discussions, and I sought assurances from the ambassador that an invitation to election observers would soon be forthcoming, so that the election in Istanbul can be seen by the world to be free, fair and transparent. I believe that we have made good progress on securing such an invitation.

There has been serious speculation that we may be willing to hand over some land from our British sovereign bases in the event of an agreement in Cyprus. Has the amount of land been agreed?

It has been the case for many years that we have been prepared to part with some of the sovereign base land. In that sense, our position remains unchanged.

I have a constituent who was assaulted by bouncers at a club in Cyprus and is now in the regional neurological centre with severe injuries. The authorities in Cyprus have dragged their feet during the investigation, but they have suggested that the perpetrators may have melted away across the border into northern Cyprus, where they are out of touch. Does the Minister agree that the continued division poses a threat to British tourists in Cyprus?

I extend my sympathy and concern following that assault. It is not the first such case in which people who are believed to have perpetrated a violent crime have fled to the north in order to exclude themselves from Cyprus’s jurisdiction. I hope that we are offering sufficient consular support, where appropriate, and we will of course follow up any other diplomatic efforts that we can make to pursue those who committed the crime.